Mayta: better late than never?
18 months ago Dubai had no dedicated Peruvian restaurants (unless you count supper club The Act). Coya opened in December 2014, followed a few months later by The Garden, and now we have seven establishments including new opening and Lima import, Mayta, at DIFC’s Capital Club – with another different concept set to open on Palm Jumeirah. The global Peruvian trend has well and truly arrived here, albeit very tardy. You may argue that seven is too many, and likely I would agree, but when compared with the hundreds of Italian, or Indian restaurants in Dubai, it’s small fry.
Mayta is Peruvian chef Jaime Pesaque’s concept with outposts in Uruguay, New York, Miami, Hong Kong, in addition to Peru, and has been brought to Dubai by Ginza, who amongst others, also operate Jean-Georges Dining Room. Here the kitchen is helmed by a Peruvian chef de cuisine. Oozing Aztec touches, nooks and crannies house the restaurant and the bar, making for a highly intimate, inviting feel. Mayta is a classic example of a restaurant that is half-empty (or half-full) on a Friday evening over a long weekend, yet still manages to boast plenty of atmosphere thanks to a mix of bright and dimmed lighting, along with a well considered design.
The menu, in typical Peruvian style, is a little overwhelming, partly because of the mammoth choice, and also because of the Spanish lingo and descriptors. That’s fine if you are familiar with Peruvian cuisine, but I expect not all of Mayta’s clientele are. In all fairness, our waiter, rather than force upon an explanation of the concept and the menu, simply and politely asks if we would like any assistance. So let me make it easy for you. Ceviches and tiraditos (the latter is the Peruvian equivalent of Japanese sashimi). Small shares (which essentially applies to all ‘appetisers’). Anticuchos, aka grilled skewers. Moving onto main course portions: Wok dishes. Brasas = charcoal-grilled. Especiales are the signature dishes. Plus some over-priced ‘big shares’.
To try and taste a good proportion of the menu, I order three starter-size dishes and two mains (leaving one for dessert) for my dining companion and moi. First to arrive is my choice of ceviche, small shares and anticuchos – all served at the same time. Yes folks, love or hate, Mayta is another sharing-style concept, but here it works with the dishes arriving in the right order.
The tuna ceviche takes influence from Nikkei cuisine (a Peruvian-Japanese fusion style made famous by Nobu), which along with chunks of avocado in a ponzu sauce, plus shredded daikon radish and nori combines exquisite flavours with textural balance. As it happens, most of the Peruvian restaurants in Dubai actually embrace the Nikkei cooking style. Anyhow digressing, Mayta’s ceviche is one of the best I have tasted in Dubai. The steak tataki is our favourite dish of the night thanks to the delicious wagyu fillet in a ginger soya emulsion and some crushed cashews. It’s one of those timeless dishes you would return to a restaurant for. So delicious, I nearly order a second portion. The asparagus anticuchos are the only disappointment of the night – for two reasons. I don’t think they are meant to be served cold but they are, and secondly, the menu lists white Peruvian asparagus, but instead limp green spears arrive.
Both our main courses are standout dishes. Sliced crispy chicken served Mexican-style where you make your own corn tortilla wraps. Dollops of yellow tomato chutney infused with cumin and orange, and guacamole topped with a spicy rocoto salsa make this dish super moreish – another dish where we crave more. A roasted cod, which one would assume is a twist on Nobu’s classic black cod, sees a delicate flaky fish fillet served atop a risotto brimming with squash, giant corn kernels and spiced with aji Amarillo chillies – the latter prevalent throughout the menu. Be warned, Peruvian food can be quite spicy. A wholesome, nourishing and flavourful dish.
A classic dark chocolate fondant (with Peruvian cocoa beans) makes for a sweet, but not too sweet ending. An accompanying scoop of banana ice cream dipped in crushed nuts with a caramel coulis give the dessert some sublime banoffee pie flavours.
The 100-strong cocktail list, excellent Pisco sours included, and a very well priced wine list (as an example, Billecart-Salmon Brut sells for just over AED500, and the rose vintage for AED800+) would make mixologists and sommeliers drool.
What’s quite unusual about Mayta is that the same waiter serves us throughout our meal – admittedly the restaurant isn’t particularly busy. Apart from a couple of discreet upselling attempts (no I don’t want to order six dishes plus desserts for two people), service is efficient, experienced and well paced. However, on arrival, the hostess escorts us to what is possibly the worst table in the restaurant. At our insistence, she offers us another table in a secluded alcove with views across to the main dining area (a perfect hideaway for private events by the way). Given Mayta is far from packed, why not offer us a choice of tables right from the start? Many restaurants in Dubai are at fault here, and I’d love to understand why, if anyone would care to shed some light.
Provided you steer away from the pricey big sharing plates (trust me the main courses are large enough to share), expect to pay AED310 per person for three very generous courses without alcohol. That’s in line with expectations from a high-end dining establishment in a prime location.
And those expectations have truly been surpassed. Mayta’s modern take on Peruvian and wider South American cuisine marries bold, exquisite flavours, with interesting textures and a stylish presentation – at a fair price. The service, in most parts, is well trained – whilst location, décor and atmosphere all get a thumbs up. From what I can tell, the restaurant is busier on week nights with the DIFC crowd. Mayta may be late to the Peruvian game in Dubai, but it’s worth the wait. Book your table now. Here’s to a high four out of five FooDiva knife rating.
Do you have a favourite Peruvian restaurant in Dubai, or elsewhere? Do you think we have too many Peruvian restaurants here now?
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) May 16, 2016