Restaurant Review: MAYA

This Restaurant Week, I shockingly didn't spend hours poring over menus and comparing prices and fitting 4 meals out into my schedule. 

I just moved, and my wallet is feeling it. 

But I DID get to go out for one lovely dinner during restaurant week - at a Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side by restaurateur Richard Sandoval called Maya. He has over 30 Latin-inspired restaurants across the world (I ate at Masa in DC which was delicious!) and fun fact: he's built the largest collections of tequilas in North America and the Middle East - so round of applause for Richard. 

Maya isn't your typical Manhattan restaurant where diners are sitting on top of each other, crammed into tables that make it just as easy to talk to the stranger next to you than the guests you went out to dinner with. The interior is pretty expansive and open, reminding me of restaurants like Tao and China Grill, where you just feel like you're eating somewhere that makes you someone. Or something like that.

The bar area seems to have some great happy hour deals, with $5 margaritas on Wednesdays (and a free one if you check in on Yelp!) 

Since we were doing the Restaurant Week menu, we couldn't capitalize on the $5 margaritas, so I stuck to the chow (again, I'm feeling pretty poor at the moment!)
Normally, I'd like to each order a different appetizers so that we could try more than one thing. But it was pretty obvious we both wanted a full serving of the Smoked Brisket Tostadas - corn tostada, black beans, lettuce, cojita cheese, avocado and tomatillo salsa. 

I love corn tostadas/tortillas and these had a good flavor, although they got slightly soggy.  The smoked brisket was pretty damn good - my dad has his own smoker, and I grew up eating his smoked blue fish and smoked pulled pork - so I know when something has a good, authentic smokey taste, and these did.  They were very generous with the avocado, and cojita cheese added a little something extra. 

For my entree, I ordered the Salmon Al Chipotle - achiote-marinated salmon, chipotle, coconut milk, oyster mushrooms, rice noodles and pasilla oil. 

Ok let's break that down. 

Achiote-Marinated Salmon = salmon rubbed with achiote paste which comes from bixa orellana - basically it's a shrub that produces a flower whose seeds are used to create a paste that is rubbed on fish and meat to give it a unique flavor and red coloring. 

Chipotle = this sauce was KILLER. Spicy, but not to the point where I couldn't eat it. A litttttttle too salty for my liking, but there was definitely flavor to it besides "salt." 

Coconut Milk = a wonderful Indian-esque touch to the dish that surprisingly worked really well with the chipotle! 

Oyster Mushrooms = loaded with them, although I could always eat more mushrooms! Mmm. 

Rice Noodles = a wonderful, light, thin consistency that didn't overwhelm the subtle flavors or the salmon. As someone who loves angel hair, this was really similar, so I was a fan. 

Pasilla Oil = after some research, I guess this is what added the little kick to the dish, since they're a type of chile!

Last was dessert. I opted for the Chocoflan! I had never had flan before, and I'm still not entirely sure what flan is supposed to be like - so I'm not sure if this was good flan or not. But if it was good flan, then I don't think I'm a fan of flan. Say that 10 times fast. Fan of flan. Fan of flan. Fan of flan. HA. It was very underwhelming, not very flavorful, a weird consistency.

I know I said it wasn't the type of place where you felt uncomfortable close to the people next to you - but we did have a lovely exchange with the couple dining next to us when the guy gave us the dessert he wasn't going to eat. SCORE! It was strawberry sorbet and IT WAS GOOD. There were chunks of strawberry in it, which I was definitely feelin'. 

One thing I don't like about Restaurant Week is that the menu often features things that you can't typically get at the restaurant. Some people may like getting an "off menu" item, but to me, I want to be able to try their signatures dishes, the dishes that they're serving up every night - Restaurant Week is supposed to make these restaurants more accessible to the average New Yorker - let us eat the food you offer everyone else! Both the appetizer and the entree I ordered aren't anywhere to be found on the real Maya menu.Even the dessert wasn't what they usually serve - my Chocolate Flan didn't come with the pistachio gelato, rose petal cream and mandarin that the dinner menu describes!

But, I guess I can't be too angry, since the food that they made was actually really flavorful and yummy. 

I think I would go back if my parents were in town and picking up the bill ;) (Hi Mom, hi Dad!) The quality of food is good and the restaurant itself is really nice. There's definitely some things on the menu that I'd like to try. 

AND I need to go back for their brunch.  Here in New York City, sure we like our bottomless booze on Sunday afternoons. But Maya offers bottomless booze AND bottomless FOOD. Yeah, you read that right.  For $43 (yes, it's a little steep, but TREAT YO SELF right?) you get 2 hours of unlimited small plates and brunch cocktails.  Those brunch cocktails include margaritas, bloody mary's, flavored mimosas and something called a bloody maria - tequila + sangrita WHA?! And the small plates? Let's just say there's Mexican french toast with nutella, bananas and whipped crema fresca. Oh yeah, and chipotle cajeta. Aka chipotle syrup. 

I'd call Restaurant Week this winter a success!