When the owners of San Miguel restaurant in La Lengua retired in 2017, their kids Juliano and Noris Gomez pared down the menu and renamed it “Sabor de Sam Miguel” and noted the Guatemalan restaurant as a “Mayan kitchen”. The decor and seating arrangement of the small restaurant seems updated since I ate there a few years back.
The adovada, pork shoulder is marinated in adobo sauce for 24 hours and fried to order. Delicious tender pork with a crust potent in seared spices, and not too much chili heat. It reminded me of the poc chuc Yucatán Mexican restaurants serve, and some online recipes indicate the two share marinade ingredients like citrus and achiote seeds. What distinguishes the two dishes?
The Kaq’lk, a thick poultry soup, orange red from chilis and spices, had incredible depth, and the server offered us, perhaps because it was a weekend special, an upgrade to the more traditional turkey instead of the game hen listed on the menu.
According to their website the Gomez’s have operated a food truck since 2012 and are winners of a Food Network show.
I dug up the article for the original San Miguel restaurant. The original owners can cook up any Guatemalan hometown favorites. The kids are in the kitchen now, though I wonder if we can still get them interested in cooking up a Guatemalan feast? HO-down anyone?
The description of the Kaq’lk in the article:
'K-Ai-K" ($8), pronounced Cack-ik, a specialty of the hill town of Coban, and available Saturdays and Sundays only, is a rich, clear turkey stock, brick-hued from a dusting of chile pasilla, surrounding a huge hunk of turkey. Boasting a nip of lemon juice, along with a spinachlike forest of whole cilantro stalks, it left us radiant with warmth and pleasure. Following the custom, K-Ai-K comes with golden rice, the palm-sized soft corn tortillas favored from Yucatan on south, and a small, interesting tamale ($4 a la carte) made of firm masa (cornmeal dough) seasoned with the rare herb chipilin. (Growing only in Chiapas and northwestern Guatemala and sold frozen locally, it’s a mild-flavored cousin of the ornamental shrub known as crotalaria.)’
I wasn’t aware of this seemingly good Guatemalan restaurant before. And didn’t think that not only can we get good Guatemalan here, but we can get Guatemalan food with regional differentiation too. (The owners are from the region near Lago Atitlan.
I’ve passed this place dozens of times without ever stepping inside, but I decided to change that tonight on the strength of this thread.
We started with the Guatemalan tamale, a corn masa tamale wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with chicken, bell pepper, raisins, capers, olives, prunes and “mayan mole sauce.” This was fantastic. The masa was almost pudding-like in consistency, and everything was tender and flavorful. Apparently these are traditionally eaten in Guatemala during the holidays, and they are listed on the menu as “seasonal” because they are only made when the cooks have the time to do so!
For mains, we got the adovada, which was addictively delicious, and the pepian, a hen stew which the menu says “features a rich curry of various sweet chilies, pan roasted tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and cilantro.” This was also quite good: the meat tender and juicy, the sauce complex, a delightful tonic for the cold rainy weather we’ve been experiencing lately.
The owner was absurdly friendly and spent an inordinate amount of time chatting with us about the menu and the history of the restaurant. Although it’s been around for a decade, this place somehow still feels like a find.
Excellent meal! thanks for sharing! That’s the type of food that’s hard for tourists to find in…Guatemala! Its easier to find a restaurant there that serves pasta than good home cooked food, unless you find a home stay family who can cook or have connections!
I really liked a recent meal at Sabor. @hyperbowler thanks for the rec!
Kaq’lk: they didn’t have the turkey kaq’lk that day despite being on the weekends, so we got the regular hen kaq’lk. Since I haven’t had the turkey version I can’t compare the depth of flavors. The variety of chilis, achiote and other spices made for a very complex-tasting and delicious soup. The hen itself mostly sacrificed all its flavor to the soup.
I asked them whether they were interested in cooking off-menu Guatemalan dishes if we get a bunch of people and they said yes since they did catering already. Honestly I haven’t thought much about getting a group together since the initial thought popped into my head but I will definitely return, HO-down or not. The food was cooked with care, and the space was decorated with care. The owners obviously take pride in their work.