Maya Tequila Bar and Grill may have been around in other guises previously, but let it be said now that things are changing. Under the helm of new owner Michael, Maya launches a two pronged attack as both a bar, and a restaurant.
While most would consider this commonplace, the duo often comprises merely a few beers and a dash of wine, with unusual drinks orders receiving quizzical expressions from staff. Try ordering a Sazerac or an Old Fashioned, beyond the bastions of established high cocktail establishments, and you’ll be settling for scotch and dry.
Not so here. As A, T and I propped in front of the extensively filled bar, littered with more Patron than a Ludacris video clip, we were spoiled for choice.
After settling in we tore into classic Mexican bar food. The guacamole was fresh with creamy avocado, tangy lime and fresh coriander. The chips were the thick tortilla type beyond that of ordinary corn chips.
The chicken ribs were crunchy and juicy, lightly seasoned with two swirls of sauce, one rich, creamy and smooth the other salty and spicy. They were exactly what you would expect from good fried chicken. The quesadillas were overflowing with pulled chicken leg, cheese and molle sauce, also as expected.
The secret here was the pairing with drinks. The ice cold, bitter Pacifico Clara Lager cut through the richness of the ribs and quesadillas making it a perfect companion. There’s a certain synergy that comes from having local beer with local fare that is hard to replicate. Try Tsingtao with dumplings or waffles with Leffe Brun and you’ll know what I mean.
From here we started to delve into the evolving menu as Michael morphs the cuisine to his liking. The prawn cocktail was delectable, with the prawns poached perfectly: hot, crunchy, bitey, and not floury or over cooked. The fresh coriander high notes popped through the tomato base, with the tequila helping enrich the lingering flavours.
The standout here was the ceviche though. The snapper was beautiful, sweet and firm. The rich coconut wrapped itself around the palette, with what I suspect was galangal adding an Asian aromatic depth to the sauce. The lime and herbs balanced the flavours and as always, left us wanting more.
On the topic of balance, it was about this time that Michael thought it would be a good time to do a shot of tequila. Now before your mind draws the links back to bottles with little plastic sombreros and nights spent in the embrace of porcelain, don’t judge tequila by its cheap forebears. It’d be like writing off red wine on the basis of some cheap goon once supped as an adolescent.
The tequila was fine, complex and lingering without the sharpness that is usually associated with it. The fruity sweet chaser coating the mouth and snuffing the aftertaste. A dangerously easy way to drink tequila.
To finish we shared a Chile chocolate mousse that straddled the line, being light and not too rich, with just an aftertaste of chili and hint of mint mixed through.
Overall, great drinks and a cuisine evolving with two streams: bar food for drinkers with the munchies and share plates for the social epicurean.