The new Maya – Mexican or Tex-Mex?
Maya 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.
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.
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.