Mayta: From Lima to Dubai
Mayta, the brainchild of renowned Peruvian chef Jaime Pesaque, was first opened in Lima six years ago. He had a brief stint at Toro Toro in Grosvenor House back in 2013, when he helped to plan out a special Peruvian festival menu. Earlier this year, the chef decided to give Peruvian cuisine a larger presence in Dubai with the opening of Mayta at the Capital Club in DIFC.
The restaurant uses a lot of warm, earthy tones, and the walls are adorned with traditional Peruvian art and motifs. The dim, yellow lighting adds to that warmth. There’s a decent enough selection of vegetarian options on the a la carte menu, but we go for the 7-course vegetarian tasting menu, which seems to contain a good sampling of everything.
An amuse-bouche that seems to be a riff on a nacho starts things off. A crisp baked tortilla triangle topped with avocado mousse, red onions and sun-dried tomato packs in plenty of flavor in just one little bite.
The first course is Ceviche Vegetale, a vegetarian version of the classic Latin American seafood dish, swapping out the fish for asparagus spears, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peanuts and micro herbs. It all sits on top of a citrus-based sauce that gives the whole dish a wonderful tanginess. Next is Quinoa Salad with crispy fried mushrooms, purple potatoes and avocado cream. Some more citrus notes show up courtesy of the ponzu vinaigrette coating the quinoa, but the tang isn’t as strong as in the ceviche. Apparently ponzu is not vegetarian, but I only discovered this too late!
Esparragos, a combination of green and white asparagus in a salty miso marinade, is big on flavor. I wasn’t much of an asparagus fan growing up, but I’ve come across some really good asparagus dishes in the past couple of years and this definitely ranks high on the list. The fourth course is Empanadas, which no South American meal would be complete without. Gooey cheese and Peruvian corn (not as sweet as regular corn) are a winning combination and the accompanying chimichurri balances out the richness with layers of sharp, herby flavor.
Next up is Vegetale Saltado, a mixed vegetable dish that veers in a more Asian direction with hints of lemongrass and coconut in the thick sauce. It’s an interesting flavor mix, with a smoky undertone from chopped toasted almonds. The final savory course is Ravioli, with a filling that’s similar to the empanadas and rich, cheesy cause. I do like the dish, but it’s the least interesting one so far simply because the flavors aren’t quite as unique. Well-prepared ravioli isn’t that much of a rarity around here.
The dessert course consists of quinoa bread pudding, and brings the meal to a perfect finish. The bread, soaked in citrus honey, is wonderfully moist and served with chancaca ice cream (sauce from cane sugar that’s commonly made in Peru) that tastes like salted caramel. All the flavors come together beautifully.
Mayta delivers bold and memorable flavors that paint a delectable picture of Peruvian cuisine. The music has several people grooving at their tables and on Wednesdays, they even have a live Latin band playing from about 10 pm (I just manage to catch them before heading out), which adds to the lively atmosphere. However, it is a bit surprising that fish-based sauces should be present on the vegetarian tasting menu. That's definitely something to watch out for.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Amazing flavor combinations, great service, buzzing ambiance
Cons: Some dishes on the vegetarian tasting menu have non-veg elements, staff isn’t so clued in on which sauces are vegetarian
Price: $$ (200 - 500 AED)
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