A new year has rung in and doomsday sayers were wrong yet again in their interpretation of the Mayans culture. But when that un-fateful day rolled around me and the SO decided if we were going to do anything on our last day it will be eating and drinking our way out. Thus we headed to Canvas Underground's latest get together and their Mayan End of the World dinner. This particular underground dinner was held way out in the Sunset at a lovely home set up for very intimate dining.
Where the food was mostly Mayan inspired, with a few chef flairs thrown, it was interesting and filled with highs and lows. Things started out with a crab and shrimp chilmole.
Crab, shrimp, allspice cured papaya, candied habanero syrup, arugula and vinaigrette of ground chili oil. A lovely plate to look at and I enjoyed parts of this dish separately though not so much together. I really liked the syrup, it was sweet and hot, though a little goes a long way. For me I think the crab and shrimp were just too delicate in flavor and were just overwhelmed from the syrup and the vinaigrette. My taste buds wanted a heartier meat to go up against the bold flavors. Both of these sauces should be bottled and sold. Next up was roasted plantain soup.
plantains were roasted then cooked down with leeks, garlic, butter and cream then pureed. Served with yucca chips and a citrus salsa of orange peel, lemon, grapefruit, red onion an cilantro. By far this was the best dish of the night. Creamy, rich, flavorful...I just couldn't get enough. Akin to potato soup but so much better. The yucca chips were also a nice crispy bonus and I could have eaten a bag of those too. The chef said he took a lot of time and effort with this and it paid off. Again he should can and sell this. Then came the papadzules.
A pasture egg enchilada with tomato sauce and pumpkin seed oil puree. Hmmm....this I just did not like. Mostly it was a weird texture issue for me. The egg was boiled and chopped inside and the corn tortilla was just too soft, then you add in the sauces and it was a lot of mush. Each of the sauces didn't really stand out either to me. The dish needed some kind of fat like cheese to give it flavor. Sadly, the whole thing was just a miss for me. We quickly moved on to the Salmon Creek Ranch duck pibil.
Slow roasted, smoky duck served like pulled pork with black beans, corn tortilla, cilantro and red onion pickled in orange peel, vinegar and sugar. I enjoyed this version of an open faced taco. The duck was perfectly cooked and tender and the citrus flavor from the onion was a nice refreshing touch to offset the heaviness of the black beans. We easily could have eaten several of these with that side of soup and been totally happy. The meal was finished off with honey and vanilla glazed pumpkin.
Yes, pumpkin, not as a pie but served as you would a fruit. It came with fresh roasted cocoa beans, a honey glaze, a prickly pear cactus fruit sauce and fresh cream. Visually, a very colorful dish with an intriguing concept. Individually the flavors are there, but together I just didn't like the way they meshed. The pumpkin could have been sweeter, or actually sweet, it tasted like squash. The cocoa beans were just too bitter and there wasn't enough honey glaze to offset that. The cactus fruit sauce was....um...different and it also was not very sweet. The chef said it was his goal to make an nontraditional dessert on the low sweet side and for that he succeeded. Flavor wise, not so much. (I almost stopped at a donut shop on the way home, but it was late and we had an early flight the next morning so we thought better of it.) Not a great way to finish a meal but definitely different.
As with many of these underground dinners, the food is a centerpiece, but it's also more about trying new things and meeting new and interesting people in a less formal setting and in that regard it surpasses expectations. The folks we ate with were fun and interesting and you get to talk food and experiences with other food minded individuals whom you may not meet otherwise. If you every have the chance to attend a dinner you really, really, really should.