After craving authentic mexican food, I walked over to Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen and Taqueria, on First Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets. This is another fine restaurant by Richard Sandoval, so I figured I was going to experience the same wonderful attributes as I did at Raymi... In fact, Richard Sandoval considers Maya his “Flagship” restaurant, since Maya positioned him as being a leading mexican chef authority in New York City.
Upon first glance, the expansive frontage opens up onto First Avenue and showcases a large, yet cozy dining room, which is tastefully decorated with brilliant colors, dark woods and oh so comfortable seating.
As I walked in I was greeted by the very warm staff awaiting my arrival. My guest, Eugenio Jimenez, commented on the friendliness and attention to detail of the entire staff.
As we sat in the corner of the room, we watched the patrons of various ages coming in and out. The restaurant clearly was bustling but by the body language of the staff, you wouldn't know it... It was “grace under pressure” during our entire 2-3 hour experience.
I began by having a richly colored red sangria and Eugenio had a Margarita Maya, with chili piquin neatly and fashionably sprinkled along the rim of the glass. My sangria was most fruity and bursting with luscious grape notes. I found Eugene's Margarita to be cool and bedazzling to the palate with the bursts of chili piquin dotted along the rim of the glass – a perfect drink for the occasion.
Starting off on appetizers, we sampled the medium spiced guacamole – I must admit that I have never been the biggest fan of guacamole, but this recipe “completely turned me around”, as it was creamy, perfectly spiced, and served with fresh crispy chips. I dipped and dipped to my heart's content.
To compliment my lovely appetizer and drink, I had Maya's Cazuela (Roasted Chicken), while Eugenio had Carne Asada (Skirt Steak). Eugenio also had Tampiqueña (Filet Mignon), with a mole cheese enchilada, guacamole poblano chile, potato gratin and cactus salad. We both found the filet mignon to be “melt in your mouth perfection” and the accompaniment of the cactus salad was most refreshing.
My chicken was perfectly cooked, amazingly delicious and teeming with abundant flavors from the mole sauce/sesame seed combination... The sesame seeds served as an added “pop” of robust flavor to the dish, which engaged my senses in a most extraordinary way – very powerful in flavor, with a perfectly seasoned balance.
Eugenio's comment on his skirt steak was “five stars – perfectly cooked, savory and just perfect all around”.
Chef David Gonzalez was very kind in serving us shrimp tacos with watercress “Marvelous, flavorful, and tasty and with a well balanced flavor profile”. Eugenio commented that it “is so good, it should be on the regular daily menu”. We also had steak tacos with medium heat mole, complete with cheese, radishes, and other fresh vegetables. I must remark on the display of the dish – each taco stood perfectly and looked like it belonged on the cover of any high end culinary magazine – (Actually all of their dishes were of the same artful caliber). The incredible burst of flavors of the perfectly seasoned beef, (as well as the fresh garden vegetables), were powerful indeed. The beef was cut perfectly, with just the right about of fat and was so tender.
As an added surprise, we were treated to a sampling of various guacamoles from their guacamole festival, which was just ending. Among our favorites was Guacamole Baja, (with strawberries, kiwi, mango, mint and cilantro), Tuna Tartare, (with Serrano chiles), and Sur Guacamole, which featured grasshoppers. All these dishes exhibited the freshness and zest we came to realize throughout the entire meal. The grasshoppers had a smoky, woody flavor, which made the Sur Guacamole incredibly memorable.
One thing we both agreed on was that since the menu selections are so intertwined with each other, there is no need to concern yourself with pairing dishes with their wines and/or fine tequilas and margaritas. Everything simply compliments one another for an amazing experience.
My Strawberry Mojito was found to be elegantly sweet with the essence of the strawberry notes swirling about the glass. Tasting the Mojito Fresca was splendidly minty and also refreshing.
And now with the desserts – which I found to be delectable, and of the highest level of satisfaction I ever experienced before. Words simply cannot describe this segment of the experience.
I started out with the Deconstructed Mocha with white chocolate, which featured a coffee mousse, a rich chocolate brownie and lychee granita. This is what I called “love on a plate”, with the richness of a royal and sweetness of a saint, my combination of fruit, mousse, brownie and lychee were the perfect symphony.
I also had a Chocolate Banana Tart with cinnamon ice cream, which featured a caramel crust and a sweet ripened banana – it was a tropical dance on my palate – which fully satisfied my need for a chocolate and fruit combination.
For a nightcap, I had a creamy Dos Equis Amber Beer, which I found to be a wonderful addition to an already perfect dining experience with its smooth flavor.
Maya's Guacamole Festival has come to a close – but don't be too upset – you must ask about their Chile Relleno Festival through December. Maya's is always hopping and full of fun dishes and festivals all year long...
In closing, I can tell you Maya is the place to go for authentic Mexican cuisine like no other – Rustic, exquisite, full of freshness and quality all accentuated with fine service make this a must – make your reservation today and tell them I sent you.