Maria Bonita | The "Friends" zone redefined
It was one of those Friday evenings where one cuisine kept popping to mind and making my mouth water. It had to be Mexican and it had to be Maria Bonita. I quickly persuaded my mother to join me in satisfying my craving at this cool, casual eatery adjacent to where Central Perk (from the sitcom Friends) once stood. We were very lucky to get a table (and parking!) on a Friday evening as the restaurant was buzzing both inside and out, especially after 7:30pm where groups of hungry people were swarming in, probably experiencing the same craving.
If it had to be Mexican, there had to be “Guacamole on the Spot”. Maria Bonita’s traditional Hass avocado recipe is made from scratch at your table and teases your craving. Two incredibly ripe avocados are scooped out and mashed before your eyes (this bit alone will have avocado lovers drooling) before the chef adds salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, tomatoes, onion and green chilies (as desired) to the mixture, resulting in a perfectly vibrant, refreshing and delicious accompaniment to your meal.
Now that the stage was set, ordering the Nacho’s Machos next was a no-brainer! The tortilla chips are homemade, topped with pinto beans and melted cheese served at just the right temperature, along with jalapenos to give it just the kick it needed. Needless to say they went down a real treat.
“You will remember us today and mañana,” is what the papas bravas (aka angry potatoes) promises, which caught my eye on the menu right away. As a lover of spuds and a huge fan of the Middle-Eastern batata harra, I had to see if the allegation was justified. These baby potatoes are sautéed in a special Guajillo sauce. The chili and spices incorporated into the guajillo sauce coupled with the soft potato texture kept luring my fork back for more. Lo and behold, the very next day my mother commented that papas bravas would be a great way to liven up a plain salad!
Back to Friday night, an interval of limonada was in order before we tackled our mains, Jumbo Veggie Quesadilla and Tacos Maya. While slightly on the sweet side, the limonada was refreshing in small doses.
Re-energized and ready for the second course, we tucked into the Quesadilla, made up of two jumbo flour tortillas with melted Gouda cheese and topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and a vegetarian filling of mushrooms, bell peppers and onion. The quantity of filling was perfect and the melted gouda cheese brought everything together nicely. And when dipped in guacamole and sour cream, we just couldn't resist.
The Tacos Maya, are also flour tortillas, but wrapped this time and marinated in Mayan dressing, served with chipotle & coriander cream and mushrooms (optional). It’s served as two tortillas with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. The rice itself was not too exciting and could have been mistaken for a shop-bought packet. The beans had a nice taste and passed as an adequate accompaniment. The actual taco filling consisted of carrots, tomato, green pepper and onion, but at this point we were hoping for a slight variation of vegetables – for instance, the use of yellow, red or orange peppers would have been welcomed. If you're on a date, my advice is to steer clear of this dish as it’s extremely messy to eat!
Last but not least, we ordered the classic Mexican dessert and my personal favourite, churros - deep fried masa (dough) covered with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. You can choose a side of chocolate or caramel sauce and naturally we chose chocolate. I had high expectations for this desert with my memories of warm, moist churros in the middle of London’s infamous Winter Wonderland. Could I re-live that satisfying wintery moment all the way here in Dubai? The answer is yes, I most definitely did! Served warm, and coated with sugar, the churros were a pleasure to bite into. The light crunch of cinnamon and sugar on the crust with the simplicity of the dough on the inside, took me right back to that cold wintery night I had imagined. Muchas Gracias, Maria Bonita!
Overall, I strongly recommend this as a family-friendly authentic Mexican joint. The interior has a homely, yet hip and funky street-art vibe, the food is served quickly and the staff know their stuff! We even met Maria herself! Did I mention they have a shop and resident pet too?
Viva La Veggie!
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Tasty, authentic Mexican food in a casual, relaxed setting with fast service. Extensive vegetarian selection.
Cons: Parking hard to find, very busy in the evenings. Not particularly vegan friendly.
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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