Chilam Balam was definitely worth the hour-long wait at the pedestrian sports bar next door.
In fact, I’d be willing to do it all over again, wait and all, if it meant I could once more feast upon the authentic Mexican fare created by Chef de Cuisine Chuy Valencia, the former Sous Chef at Rick Bayless’ renowned Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
Rather than selecting our own items, we entrusted our fate to our server, asking simply that he brought us the best. The result:
- Grilled pork ribs basted with Oaxacan pasilla glaze, radishes, and sweet plantains with crema
- Grilled hanger steak in guajillo sauce, roasted potatoes, crispy onion and cilantro
- Empanadas filled with braised mushrooms in pipian verde, two cheeses, epazote and roasted green chiles
- Halibut ceviche tossed with red onion, cucumber, jicama, cilantro, habanero, avocado and tomato; tostadas
- Crispy flautas stuffed with chicken and rajas; chipotle-mezcal sauce, pickled cabbage, fresh cheese and crema
- Earthenware cazuela of braised wild mushrooms, roasted turnips, potato and epazote in New Mexico Chile and dark beer; Queso fresco and cilantro
- Braised lamb shank in a spicy sauce of pan juices and cascabel chiles; whipped parsnips and roasted chanterelle mushrooms
We happily eschewed our utensils in favour of the little homemade tortillas that came with everything.
Word to the wise: bring booze. Chilam Balam is unlicensed. Thankfully, if you bring it, they’ll serve it – sans corkage. Even better, if, for example, you were to bring a bottle of tequila, they’d make you margaritas. Just sayin’.
I was never much of a fan of the Tex-Mex slop that used to pass for Mexican food. I am, however, a fan of the real deal, and to my mind this little basement establishment has nailed it.