Saturday, April 7, 2007

REVIEW: Chichen Itza

M and I had wanted to try the new location for months and we finally went to Chichen Itza's new location last night. While we enjoyed our dinner, M and I agreed that it has ample room for improvement. Moments after we were sat, a basket of tortilla chips covered in a thin black bean puree and pico de gallo arrived. Our handsome server promptly came over, asked if we wanted anything to drink, and quickly came back with our two Sam Adams.

Food: After reading reviews elsewhere, we split the Xcatic Chile Relleno and the Cochinita Pibil plate. The rellenos (3) were special and memorable, a mellow small chili lightly fried and filled with mildly spicy tuna. Chichen Itza's cochinita pibil is well-known for a reason. Tangy and citrusy, the pork was tender and addictive.

It's served with a whole habanero pepper resting on top so M of course offered me $10 if I'd eat it. I declined, but did stab it with my fork, then quickly touching the tines to my tongue - whoa, that was a really stupid idea! Just that little touch set my tongue and whole mouth and learn :)

Decor: Loved it, warm colors and nice spacing, though the lighting could have been a touch dimmer.

Service: You know, as a former server at both very casual and fine dining restaurants, I think I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to mediocre or even bad service. But the flip side is that I know when there is a problem and can usually identify what it is and what the remedy could be. Our server, as previously mentioned, was very handsome, and a real sweetie, but needs a service overhaul.

First of all, I could almost imagine the owner/manager explaining to him that the new Chichen Itza is a fine dining establishment and therefore the staff needs to have a certain grace and demeanor. M and I felt like this poor guy was trying WAY too hard to be formal and elegant and it just was not working. His demeanor and delivery was forced, awkward, and just weird at times. This alone would be ok and charming in a certain way, but his timing was severely off too and this was the kicker.

The place was not busy, I think we were one of his maybe 4 tables, and it took forever, for example, to get our bill. About five minutes after our plates were cleared by the extremely efficient and capable bussing staff, our server approached, asking if we wanted to see the dessert menu. We told him that we were stuffed, so no we would not like to see the dessert menu. He said something like, "Ok then, I will leave you to enjoy your night," and then did not come back for about ten minutes. He came over and asked if we would like the bill left again and came back with our bill.

All this guy needs is a half-hour of training. What's confusing is that I'm pretty sure the chef/owner and manager were both hanging out during our dinner and obviously just were not tuned in enough to the wait staff. If my credit card is on the table for ten minutes, someone (the busser, manager, host, server) should have noticed and acted.

We'll be back because it's in the hood, the food was pretty good, and we like to support local businesses. But next time, we'll know what to expect and hopefully the service issues will be resolved.

Chichen Itza
2501 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 380-0051

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