The hottest tables of Merida, Mexico serve so-called Yucatecan cuisine, which is prided by locals as having a distinctive flavor from the rest of Mexican cuisine. YNN's Valarie D'Elia filed the following report.
Roberto Solis’ Restaurant Nectar is well-regarded as the hottest table of the moment in Merida, Mexico, the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, with its "nuevo Yucateca" cuisine.
“We don’t call it Mexican food, we call it comida yucateca, Yucatecan food," says Solis. "It's very distinctive from the rest of Mexico, because in a way we were very separated from Mexico.”
Like much of the cooking in this area, Nectar's cuisine has its roots in ancient Maya traditions.
Many of the new chefs sharpen their knives and culinary skills at Merida's Escuela Culinaria del Sureste, lead by chef Luis Barocio, who makes regular visits to the local market for his ingredients.
"We have influence from the Caribbean, from Europe, from France and also we have a huge Lebanese community," says Barocio.
One of the most traditional styles of cooking is called pib, a surprisingly tasty take on our Thanksgiving turkey.
"We burn wood, we heat some rocks, we wrap the food in banana leaves and it's, lets say, a Mexican luau," says Barocio.
Also in Merida is the boutique hotel Rosas y Xocolate, home to the kitchen of chef David Segovia, who presents a rack of beef with chili sauce.
About 40 miles east of Merida is the Mayan town of Izamal and the Restaurante Kinich, serving up traditional appetizers like panuchos, handmade tortillas with grilled chicken and beans.
Since this is the land of the Maya, it is also the land of chocolate, with a very impressive museum documenting the origins of everyone’s favorite dessert.