Merida’s Ku’uk restaurant from a Canadian critic’s point of view

Visiting the Merida and Valladolid area, where many refrigerated Canadians nest; a couple of food experiences stood out, one in Mérida and one in Valladolid.

Of course both cities have strong roots in the dominant Maya culture and so it was at Ku’uk restaurant where the food is high-concept and modernist yet steeped in Yucatecan traditions.

Chef Pedro Evia channels his style and substance into the food. His multi-course tasting menu transforms every few months and one of the rooms in the house is a lab for chefs to play mad scientist.

A walk-through revealed a honey bee colony and some macarons made with the honey, a nitrogen-based freeze-drying machine, and a gigantic block of natural chewing gum they’ve got plans for.

You choose a la carte or a tasting menu. The latter was $119 Cdn and a 16-course affair, but paced out so you don’t depart feeling like a sack of potatoes. The night we visited, there were burgers being prepared in the open kitchen. I thought, whaaat? Ah, in the basement level, a speakeasy type of event was going on. “Special burgers,” one of the cooks said. What that meant is open to interpretation.

As the tasting menu is more cutting edge, we opted for it. The first dishes to arrive were five different canapes, shout-outs to Spain, Korea, France, Lebanon and the Maya, presented on a cut-out bamboo stem — can’t say they were strong opening shots.