¡Ask a Comida Critic! Whither OC Cochinita Pibil?
I lost the email, so I'll paraphrase:
Hey, cabrón! Peña's Restaurant in SanTana closed--pinche chingadera!-- so where can I get my cochinita pibil fix?
A word on Peña's before we move on the the respuesta: it is, indeed, gone, but its loss isn't that big a deal. Although the hipsters and crazy Yelp kids loved the place, praised as one of the best "authentic" Mexi restaurants in la naranja, you can find better versions of its best dishes at other spots. Its green pozole? Never as delicious as people made it out to be, and tastier at the far-superior Las Brisas de Apatzingan. And the cochinita pibil, the slow-roasted pork treasure of the Yucatan, redolent of citrus and achiote, as dark-orange as a bad tan job?
Why jump the jump and dig in!
Cochinita pibil is a dish gaining in popularity with the Rick Bayless-ization of Mexican food in the United States, so it's no surprise thatGabbi's in Orange carries it
. Though Gabbi's accompanies it with its proper condiment, habanero salsa, this is also the least of the cochinita pibil platters in Orange County--not enough citrus, not enough tang. Still good, though. Better is the version made atAnepalco's Cafe in Orange
, here presented as quesadillas, tacos, tortas, and enchiladas. Don't bother with the quesadillas or enchiladas, as melted cheese tends to subsume the pork's subtle flavors, but the tacos and tortas make Anepalco's horrific parking situation worth the rear-end catastrophe you'll probably meet.
The truest cochinita pibil offered is at Conde Cakes in SanTana, the county's sole Yucatecan restaurant. Here, the pork seeps into your palate; their habanero salsa burns like it should, yet has that devil pepper's tangy aftertaste that makes it so damn addictive. The only problem with Conde Cakes is that, as of the last time I visited (about a year ago), they only offered the cochinita pibil (and other Yucatecan specialties like kibi and panuchos) on the weekends.
The Crosby's cochinita pibil torta--call it by its real name, damnit!
Photo by the Elmo Monster...
Which leaves us with the Crosby's cochinita pibil torta. They mislabel it as a jerk carnitas torta, but it's cochinita pibil, baby--chef Aron Habinger even pickles the red onions customarily put on top of the meat to add an astringent counterpoint to the pibil's beauty.
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