If you want a little panache with your pico de gallo, then just enter the world of Chef Richard Sandoval. Considered to be the “Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine,” Sandoval’s creations are a highlight of Maya Restaurant at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. In fact, The Michelin Guide said of the restaurant, “Maya’s menu reads like a love letter to Mexico.”
Sandoval’s philosophy was to create an “interactive” dining experience. “Before, people had an appetizer, entrée and dessert and dinner was over,” he told USA Today. “I like to take people on a journey that’s more ambitious. I recommend two to three plates per person and sharing an entrée.
“Now the experience becomes an interactive tasting. You’re passing the plates around, talking about the ingredients and the tastes.”
And so it is at Maya. The food is spectacular across the board. It’s rooted in tradition and, it must be said, intriguing. Nothing tastes as you might expect: It’s better than that.
And it begins with an assortment of more than 100 tequila drinks, inspired by local tequileirias in Mexico. They are refreshingly laced with an assortment of flavors that keep you guessing. One favorite is the Perfect Patrón Skinny Margarita, with Patrón silver, pineapple citronge lime and agave nectar. Another — the Canela Anejo, with Roca Patrón añejo tequila, blood orange and cinnamon. Both drinks make the perfect beginning to an exciting evening of flavors.
And that evening should begin with Maya’s Classic Guacamole. However, adding raw tuna to this dish will leave you wanting more — even after you, perhaps, ordered the Adobo Crusted Shrimp and Calmari with citrus cabbage slaw, as well. It’s a toss up between these two starters. Totally different tastes — both wonderful.
“Chef Sandoval created a standard of how the plates should look,” says Executive Chef Angel Munoz who works closely with Chef Veronica Morales. “From there we can play with ingredients and method of cooking and that’s what engages us. Like adding tuna to the guacamole.”
Morales and Munoz have a very warm working relationship. “This is how we work,” says Munoz, with a laugh. “I’ll say, ‘We need to use this ingredient.’ And she’ll say, ‘Okay, we can do this and this.’ She puts techniques in practice and I’m the one who says ‘We have to use this, I want this.’ Veronica gives soul to our menu”.
And that “soul” shows up in every dish. Take the tacos and enchiladas, for instance. Like everything on the menu, they’re authentic, freshly made and outrageously delicious. Favorites include the Adobo Brisket Tacos and the Tex Mex Chicken Enchiladas; however, the Blue Crab and Shrimp Enchiladas, with salsa verde and spinach, is a must. The array of flavors will leave you quiet, intent upon eating every last bite.
Feel free to wander beyond the tacos and enchiladas, though, to the menu’s appealing Chef’s Table choices. Carne Asada, with fire-grilled vegetables, is served within a fanned circle of black been purée and Coriander Tuna, is seared rare. It’s really hard to choose only one.
An evening at Maya is incredibly delicious and always intriguing. What’s more, you’ll leave wanting more.
Chef Munoz says that this summer’s FAC (Friday Afternoon Club) will be filled with an array of new dishes that he and Chef Morales are busily creating.