By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
However, Chéen does proffer darn good tacos al pastor, a trio of soft corn tortillas stuffed with grilled nubs of infatuatingly fatty pork, subtly and invisibly sweetened with pineapple and onions. Refried beans, salsa verde, and guacamole (apparently prepared from frozen pulp) were presented on the side, but the pork and corn flavors are perfect as is. A main course of chicken flautas ("flutes") were not nearly as satisfying, the white breast meat rolled within fried tortillas proving dry and tasteless.
While it's true that Yucatecan cuisine isn't especially fiery, a bowl of incendiary habañero chili sauce is customarily set on the dining table. Not so at Chéen, where there is nary a chili pepper in sight excepting jalapeño slices on the nachos, and an infusion of smoky chipotles in the caesar salad dressing. Other faux-Mex salads include a fajita-on-greens with ranch dressing, and "Tulum chicken salad," named after a beautiful Yucatecan coastal town, which brings a toss of beans, corn, tomatoes, and cheese in cilantro peanut vinaigrette not Mayan, but not bad.
Chéen-huyae doesn't plate the sort of salad a working-class Yucatecan would partake of, but attention is paid to re-creating beer specialties such as chelada (a brewski bumped with lemon and coarse salt), and michelada, a spicy elixir that here is flavored with lime, coarse salt, soy sauce, and Tabasco, but usually contains Worcestershire and Maggi seasoning as well. If you go with a michelada, best to choose a dark beer such as Negra Modelo as the base.
15400 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33160
Region: Aventura/North Miami Beach
Margaritas aren't nearly as authentic, those offered being fruity, wine-based affairs. And Mexicans would sooner make a margarita without tequila than they would use canned fruit in a white peach sangria, as Chéen does. Still, the latter beverage's peachy, cinnamon sweetness was undeniably refreshing, as was a glass of cool, rice pudding-flavor horchata, which is why it is favored by those living close to the equator.
Chéen was cleaned out of all three listed desserts flan, rice pudding, and manjar blanco, a sort of dulce de leche cake. Sad-sack substitutes were cheesecake, Snickers cheesecake, and banana chimichangas, whose fruit was deep-fried in tortilla wrapping and gilded with cinnamon powder and chocolate syrup. Such Americanized concoctions would no doubt delight the type of unadventuresome tourists who flock to Cancún, and likely evoke a similarly positive reaction from unadventuresome diners in North Miami too. Chéen-huyae definitely succeeds as an inexpensive neighborhood spot for tasty, mildly sanitized Mexican-Yucatecan food, but I just wish "only here" translated to "only a little more ambition."