Maya first opened around the corner from us over 10 years ago. It was the first restaurant in chef Richard Sandoval’s ever-expanding empire he calls Modern Mexican. That’s a phrase that perfectly describes the food at Maya – Mexican standards that have been enlightened of fat, enriched with flavor and enlivened with new methods of cooking and presentation.
Over a decade later, modern Mexican food is a new standard of its own. And Maya is still a great place to eat.
We had a pretty much perfect meal there last night with friends old and new, all of whom live in Jersey and have a pied-a-terre here in Manhattan. This, by the way, is what happens when the kids head off to College – the adults start to go out to play in the City. Of course, since my kids are still at home, I don’t get to play as much as my friends do. But hanging with them, I’m getting a little taste of what life will be like on the other side, and I have to say that I like it…
But I’m digressing. Back to Maya.
When we called early this afternoon, we had no problem reserving a table for 8 at 7:30 pm. Hmm…That must mean Maya is no longer a trendy restaurant destination. And that’s just fine with me. While the rest of New York is chasing the latest hot chef, I can get a table on a Saturday night and have a great meal.
The service was very good, completely unobtrusive yet totally attentive. When the conversation is as interesting as tonight’s and the food, though enlightened, still Mexican, you want to take your time between courses. And we did. We sat till 11 pm, and no one rushed us or made us feel like we were taking up the table too long. I think that’s what made the evening so enjoyable – lots of time to eat, drink and enjoy the company of friends.
The Food (aka Obligatory Poorly Lit Food Photo Montage)
Sandoval’s signature dishes that graced Maya’s menu in 1997 are still there, starting with pretty much perfect Guacamole Maya made to order and served in a black stone altar with deliciously salty home made tortilla chips. (Link to Sandoval making the guacamole)
For a First Course, Mr TBTAM and I shared the Seafood Stuffed Chile Relleno – The seafood inside was perfectly cooked, and though in a sauce and with cheese, each piece was distinctly flavored and distinguishable.
Susan and Boyd had the Quesadillas, which, sadly, I forgot to taste, but Mr TBTAM tells me were fabulous. He wants to go back some evening after work just for drinks and Quesadillas.
For an entree, Brenda and I had Camarones al Chipotle which is Tequila flambeed shrimp served with chile chipotle salsa and a little black bean and manchego stuffed pastry called a huarache. The shrimp was so good, I want to make it myself, and look – I found the recipe!
Susan had the Lobster, which was again, perfectly cooked and served with a delightfully different creamed corn and a scallop on watercress with a chile de arbol vinaigrette. I think it was my favorite entree of the evening. Look! I found that recipe too!
The rest of the entrees I did not taste, but my fellow diners raved about them all. Here’s the Tuna – Isn’t it pretty?
Dessert was Budin de Tre Leches, or three-mild soaked bread puddings.
And finally, Crepas de Cajetas, served with an incredible cinnamon ice cream and a candle for Susan, whose birthday was this week.
Happy Birthday, Susan! Brenda and Bob, it was great to see you again and Gida and John, it was wonderful to meet you. I hope we see you all again sometime again soon. So glad you’re all here in the City and welcome to my neighborood!
Guacamole Maya — Halve, pit and peel two fully ripened Mexican Hass avocados. In medium bowl combine avocados, 1 cup peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. About 2 cups.