Over the holidays, I traveled to Merida, Mexico. I was curious to see how the Yucatanean food in Houston compared with the real thing.
Merida Restaurant on Navigation is an old favorite of mine. They specialize in pulled pork dishes from the Yucatan, like Cochinita Pibil. So is it authentic? Yes. The dishes resembled the similar dishes I had in Mexico, with similar sides like refried black beans and pink marinated onions. But Merida Restaurant does not represent the full scope of Yucatanean food. For instance, seafood is very popular in the Yucatan, but is not very prominent or very good at Merida Restaurant. Turkey (Pavo) is also popular in the Yucatan, but does not show up on the menu at Merida.
Although I would not call it a Yucatanean restaurant, Pico's has some Yucatanean dishes too, like cochinita pibil and fish wrapped in banana leaves. Again, the dishes proved to be authentic to the dishes in the region, but Pico's does not represent the full scope of the food in Merida. The same is true with Otilia's - a very good interior Mexican food restaurant in
Spring Branch that has a few Yucatanean dishes.
I should give a few examples of what we are missing. One of the best and most popular Yucatanean dishes is Pork Poc Chuc -- thinly sliced pork marinated in bitter oranges and grilled. I had a great Pork Poc Chuc at Los Alamendros in Merida. But I have not seen it on any menu here. Perhaps the bitter oranges just are not available in Texas. Yucatanean restaurants also specialize in turkey, especially at dinner. Even though we can certainly buy turkeys in Houston, I am not aware of a single Yucatanean turkey dish in a Houston restaurant.
In the real Yucatanean restaurants, they also served a killer spicy salsa, probably made from habanero peppers. It made me cry tears of pain and joy. I haven't had anything like it in Houston.
We can get some very good Yucatanean food in Houston. My only complaint is that we don't have enough.