The new Maya – Mexican or Tex-Mex?

Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen - DubaiMaya always had a good reputation for serving authentic Mexican cuisine as opposed to the Americanised Tex-Mex prevalent elsewhere in Dubai. Well it’s reopened following an eight month refurb and a slight rebrand to Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen. The 60-strong tequila library complete with sexy librarian (yes guys get down there pronto) catches my attention on opening night, and I return last week to review…the restaurant not the library ;). But whilst penning my thoughts, fellow foodie blogger Fork it over Dubai publishes her review and since I agree with her feedback – difficult given food is so subjective – why not share her review instead?

I have to say a big thank you to Maya because it taught me a valuable lesson at the very start of my FIODTuesdays initiative. It was Tuesday morning, the second dinner I ever hosted and I had 11 dinner guests ready to join me for a review at Maya. I called Le Royal Meridien to book my table and the receptionist responded with “Sorry Mam but Maya is closed for renovation.” And there we have it, my FIODTuesdays tables are now booked a week in advance so my guests will never be inconvenienced by a last minute change of location. After a big re-launch event I was assured that Maya was open for all of us to enjoy. And yes, a week prior to this last Tuesday, I booked my table.

“Would you like to walk to the restaurant or would you like to take the golf cart?” Is that even a question? Does anyone say walk? “Golf Cart!” I respond with my arms in the air. What is the fascination with golf carts? Is it their playfulness or a throwback to your childhood? Either way they are one of life’s simple joys.

Rolling up to the restaurant I can’t believe its sheer size. Located as a stand-alone outlet from Le Royal Meridien, Maya’s size is definitely influenced from its origins of the West. Hanging on to the still beautiful weather like it was dear life, we decide to dine outside on the terrace. I have to give it to Maya, the lighting selected for the fit out of the restaurant, both in and out, sets the mood perfectly and is some of the best I’ve seen in Dubai.

While taking our orders, the first question I have is “Can we please have the guacamole that you prepare at the table?” I’m not going to lie, the waiter’s response shatters parts of my heart. He explains that they used to have that option, but during the renovation process they decided to scratch that off the menu. Bad move. With a heart half shattered, I continue to make the rest of my order selecting some of my classic Mexican favourites along with dishes I’ve never tried.

Our starters arrive and my tortilla chip goes head first into the guacamole and then into my mouth. Crunching through my bite, I realise that it lacks a kick of spiciness, salt and lime. Next I try their variation on the guacamole, which includes pomegranate syrup, but push it away after a bite. To this date, Loca’s guacamole goes unrivalled in Dubai.

I fold up my langoustine mini taco and take a bite. The fresh flavours of the langoustine and the earthy warm flavours of the bean spread make up for the guacamole disappointment.

The ceviche comes next. Its bright pink colour appeases my eyes but holds up a stop sign for my taste buds as they wonder how can something so striking be natural. Licking the tip of my fork full of ceviche, I taste, Kool-aide, Pepsi and everything not so nice.  On a table full of organic flavours this chemically infused dish feels like a banker on a farm, out of place.

My beef taco arrives and as a self-proclaimed compartmentalised freak, the dish puts a smile on my face. Having a taste of my beef taco, my commercially conditioned taco tastebuds melt away and I slowly realise what an authentic taco is supposed to taste like. The juicy meat and the creamy avocado bring it home.

Within the radius of an arm’s length, I enjoy a bite of chicken cazuela, which is cooked in a pot and plays on sweet and tangy flavours, chicken fajita a classic everyone enjoys and chicken enchiladas which fails to meet the standard of other mains that were ordered.

I lie back in my chair, sip my Jasmine tea, enjoy the breeze and listen to the sound of conversion from my FIODTuesdays dinner guests. My favourite thing.

And then, he arrives, tall bronze and handsome. My attention is captured, I sit up and my eyes follow him until he is placed in front of me.  Pick, dip and crunch sweet, cinnamon and crispy. I have just tasted Dubai’s best churros. A true destination churros.

Leaving the restaurant, I am satisfied and yet not satisfied. The fumble at the start of the meal may have derailed my experience. Mains and desserts made me smile, but the starters of bland guacamole and Kool-aide ceviche, instead of easing me into flavours of Mexico left me disoriented like a letter in a just shaken Boggle cube. Reminiscing about the dinner, there is one thing on my mind, THE CHURROS. For Fork it over Dubai’s pretty snaps click here.

Maya's tequila library

Maya’s tequila library

Real shame on the pre-prepared guacamole – FooDiva nearly has heart failure too. Taqado Mexican Kitchen at Mall of the Emirates is where I get my fix. If you’re after a better ceviche option, go for the duo of shrimp and red snapper (the latter referred to as huachinango on the menu). A selection of Mexican flatbreads aka huarache also make good starter options. My corn enchilada choice with shredded US beef short ribs, Gouda cheese, chilli sauce and black bean puree leaves a rather off-putting after taste. Sadly the new menu has adopted a Tex-Mex twist and an expensive one at AED 325 per head including a couple of cocktails each.

I throw a mini tantrum on arrival when we are refused a front terrace table despite reserving one – the surrounding tables are unoccupied, supposedly booked for later…yeah right. Anyhow we settle for margaritas and caipirinhas in the lounge bar (and very slow service) whilst perusing the menu. We then nab a terrace table, ignoring the waiter’s request to sit elsewhere…suddenly service perks up.

Whilst some of the dishes and service require fine tuning, one thing’s for sure, I would also return for the churros alone…oh and exceptional margaritas on the sexy wraparound terrace. Better still, senoritas can enjoy three free drinks with canapés on Sunday evenings.

So how do you like your Mexican, food that is – authentic or Tex-Mex?
Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen is located at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa Dubai. T; +971 4 3165556. E; Open daily for dinner only. Price per head AED 325 including cocktails and service/ tax. Licensed.


A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – Calling all restaurants, chefs and F&B professionals – I would urge you to consider nominating yourselves for the fifth annual Caterer Middle East Awards at Ritz-Carlton DIFC on June 12th. Nominations close on April 11 – details here. Just for the record, am a judge again 😉 

P.P.S – fancy winning a Philips and Jamie Oliver HomeCooker and Cutting Tower, plus recipe book and apron? Click here.

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16 Responses to “The new Maya – Mexican or Tex-Mex?”

  1. Krysia March 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I thought the food was fab and we both really enjoyed the venue but the prices are ridiculous. 600AED for two people for mexican food and a couple of drinks is quite frankly outrageous. There is only so much you can do to mexican food, it isn’t worth over 100AED for a main course.

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      Especially when it’s Tex-mex and not authentic Mexican Krysia. I would return for sundowners and nibbles on the terrace though.

  2. dave reeder March 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Sorry guys, the ‘sexy tequila librarian’ is New York based and only in Dubai for the relaunch… This is, I think, the third iteration of Maya. The problem is not the food or the chef’s vision. The problem, I think, is the location. Put Maya in the Madinat and it would kill it, but lost in the garden of an out of the way hotel? It’s never going to work. Great food, poor location.

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Have you returned to eat from their menu Dave? The hotel is certainly tired but I think given Maya is located outside the main building, the venue is not so much the issue here but the food, service and prices.

  3. JayEim March 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Oh well, another Mexican to strike off the list.

    Still sticking to the old Hilton one.

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Agh yes Pachanga Jay an old favourite even if the menu is not just Mexican.

  4. Sally - My Custard Pie March 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Loco has a Mexican chef – many rate it as the best Mexican in town. Maya sounds like style over substance….although the terrace with the cocktails sounds very appealing…might have to give that girl’s night a try

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Loco has good affordable fodder but it’s Tex-mex Sally ;(

  5. Felicia Mavro March 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    We were disappointed as well. Overpriced for what you get, they wanted us to sit in garden when I had booked a terrace table, service very slow and our waiter could’nt understand what we were saying. The cocktails were very disappointing.

    My daughter was unwell that evening , not sure if it was the food.
    The churros like you said are to die for, but certainly wont be back in a rush.

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Looks like cocktails aside we had a similar experience Felicia. Shame as the location is beautiful…while the weather lasts 🙂

  6. IshitaUnblogged March 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Nice style or format of a review… I have to probably first make myself believe that Mexican can also be had fine-dining and not some fabulous Tex Mex kind of food over friendly chatter and share platters. You haven’t mentioned how many Foodiva knives Maya got… or have I missed that out somewhere.

    • FooDiva April 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      As it’s mainly Fork it over Dubai’s review I didn’t but as it’s you asking Ishita based on my experience I would give Maya 3 out of 5 knives 😉

  7. maria April 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    We had been waiting for so long for them to reopen and we were very disappointed when it finally opened. The renovation has made Maya loose its charm, the fact that the live band’s not there anymore makes it look like any other place in Dubai, it lacks personality. Plus the prices have really gone up the roof. The piña colada I had was amazing, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back there for dinner anytime soon. What a shame!

    • FooDiva April 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      It’s always a tough one when restaurants rebrand and revamp Maria – clearly Maya has lots of issues to deal with given everyone’s comments are so different. Indeed a shame as it was a goodie. As an aside, New York import Cafe Habana at Souk Al Bahar has just opened – bizarrely serving mostly Mexican cuisine not Cuban. Cute decor with lots of buzz. Not eaten there yet so can’t comment on the food. Thanks for dropping by with your comment.

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