Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 09 July 2010
A Restaurant Review: Maya

1191 First Avenue, Between 64th & 65th Streets, Upper East Side, (212) 585-1818
Getting there: 6, F to 68th Street

What is striking about entering Maya for the first time is its authenticity. From the painted artifacts and pottery lined throughout the restaurant’s crimson painted walls, to the lively and boisterous environment, Maya’s atmosphere appears to have been plucked straight from a traditional Mexican Cantina, spliced with a contemporary flare for innovative food preparation.

With a bar list serving over 100 different tequilas & mescals, an unbeatable happy hour (offering $6 maragaritas and $3 tacos, sliders, and huaraches), and a comfortable lounge area, which more resembles the foyer of a Mexican hotel resort than an upper east side eatery, Maya’s versatility allows it to mix vibrant bar scene with classy dining experience.

Customary Mexican appetizers (“Entradas”) such as tacos, quesadillas, and flautas are offered, as are some delicious, freshly made guacamole & tortilla chips ($13), served in a towering dish platter. While the presentation of these starters were all unique, we especially like the “Toastadas de Atun,” ($14) a perfectly rare cooked, seared yellowfin tuna, sliced on tostadas, over a blend of fresh mango, cucumber, pico de gallo, and avocado, with a creamy aioli glaze. The salsa-like garnish combination was savory, and provided a velvety and tangy compliment to the fresh fish. Even though our tostadas were not as crisp as the remaining ingredients, the inventive dish did not suffer as a result.

As for the entrée selections, the menu offerings are anything but typical. Aside from the tasty “Enchiladas de Pollo” ($19), a traditional staple of Mexican restaurants, the selections are filled with a modern infused zest, showing the restaurant’s unparalleled creativity in the neighborhood. The “Mahi Mahi” ($28) lays a citrus crusted fish over a bed of savory wild mushrooms, a creamy chile poblano-potato puree, and topped with a smooth panela cheese. The combination of the moist, tender filet and the spice of the accompanying aioli drizzle leave you with a pleasant, mouth-watering kick. The snapper (“Huachinango $27), grilled with a chile chipotle mustard glaze, and surrounded by cooked asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and a tomatillo-avocado salsa, was also a savory representation of the restaurant’s originality. Finally, the “Pechuga Adobada” ($23), a marinated chicken breast served with a fresh cilantro pesto and warm pico de gallo was similarly spicy, but was really an ordinary chicken dish, accompanied by some tasty huitlacoche dumplings, which top off the dish.

By and large, Maya is an original fusion of traditional Mexican fare. The ambiance is unmistakably authentic and is suitable for both a happy hour gathering and an intimate dinner. While reservations are suggested, the restaurant is loud and typically busy, so be prepared to sit close to your neighbor, and to wait around for servers to make it over to your table. But the cuisine is imaginative and the flavors are mostly delectable, making any restaurant well worth the wait.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Looks like another home run, the pictures of the dishes look absolutely delicious. I am going to add this particlar place to my list of NYC restauarants that require a must to try