Playa del Carmen’s Yaxche serves authentic Maya foods
Upon approaching this bright corner restaurant in Playa del Carmen, the first thing you wonder (or at least I did) is how to pronounce “yaxche” and what it means. Pronounce it more or less “yah-shee”or maybe “jag-shey,” which the restaurant menu claims — but in what language? In any case, it is the Maya name for ceiba, a common tree that is also known as the “tree of life” for its roots’ ability to penetrate limestone and draw fresh water from the cenotes below.
Yaxche’s cuisine is described a “Maya fusion,” but it appears more of the former than the latter. That is welcome in a seaside tourist down that now boasts something on the order of 430 restaurants from Argentine to Swedish. On a hot day, Yaxche’s air conditioning is welcome, and on a breezy evening, rooftop dining is divine, and sidewalk seating provides a front-row view of Playa del Carmen after dark.
Partner/chef Ramón Lizaola, grandson of Don Andrés Hernandez who moved to the Yucatan to Cuba in the 1930s, combines his grandfather’s passion for all things Maya with traditional methods of preparing Maya dishes from his mother. Xiote, pumpkin seeds, sour orange and xcatic peppers are prominent in the dishes. Somehow, between lunch and dinner, there was time for a sampling of Yaxche’s specialties. But first, a cold refreshing drink.