Last month, I attended a press dinner at Maya New York featuring dishes created by Chef Richard Sandoval that were designed to help the attendees celebrate Mexican gastronomy. Printed on the inside of our tasting menu were the words "Mexico: The Place You Thought You Knew," the slogan of a targeted ad campaign in the United States and Canada that was initiated by the dinner's sponsor, the Mexico Tourism Board, in order to inspire visitors from those countries to explore the cultural diversity within Mexico.
After spending some time mingling with other attendees over passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails (I opted for a mojito rather than wine), we listened to some opening remarks made by Alfonso Sumano, Regional Director for the Americas at the Mexico Tourism Board and then prepared ourselves for our four-course meal that promised to showcase a starter, a seafood dish, a meat dish, and a trio of desserts.
We started with Huarache de Wagyu, served with black beans, caramelized onions, Manchego cheese, and chile toreado. Do you see that portion? They truly outdid themselves in terms of a tasting menu! Once I started eating the Wagyu, I didn't want to stop -- the meat was succulent and tender and practically melted in my mouth, and I absolutely loved the juxtaposition between the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the smoky heat of the chile. I had to remind myself to pace myself. I still had the two main courses and dessert to get through!
Our first entree was the Callo de Hacha a la Plancha -- a perfectly seared scallop drizzled with achiote truffle sauce and poblano rajas. The scallop sat perched upon a pile of sliced mushrooms seasoned with the fried epazote, an herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico that's used often in Mexican cuisine for its carminative properties (i.e. it combats flatulence). After having just one bite, I completely redefined my understanding of what it meant to be spoiled. Sure, the beef from the previous course was unlike anything I had ever eaten... But the scallop was pure magic. I was shocked by the overly generous portioning of the beef and admittedly disappointed by the relatively skimpy portioning of the scallops. But I only say that because I could have eaten that scallop dish all night without complaint.
With the lighter of the two entrees behind us, we moved on to the Carne Asada, a grilled beef tenderloin (we each got an entire beef tenderloin!) served with white bean puree, asparagus, and wild mushroom escaveche. I was filling up and slowing down and could only muster the strength to eat about a quarter of the tenderloin -- which was still pretty good if you consider how much food was on that plate. Another perfectly cooked piece of beef, elevated by the tangy earthiness of the pickled mushrooms. Of the beef dishes, I preferred the Wagyu, but I would definitely eat both dishes again if given the chance.
But did I have enough room for dessert?
As mentioned above, our dessert course consisted of a trio of desserts: Dulce de Leche, Churros, and Cranberry Ice Cream (not pictured). Because of my allergy to cranberries, I had to pass on the ice cream, but my tablemates made sure I had enough Dulce de Leche to make up for it! (Ah, the kindness of strangers...) Rich. Luscious. Sinful. Satisfying. I just don't have enough words to describe how delicious those desserts were. And, as an extra special treat, we were able to enjoy another layer of the Mexican culture while eating dessert with a live musical performance.
Even though I knew I had to say my goodbyes and bundle myself back up to make the snowy trip back home (it had started to snow as I arrived at the restaurant), I just wanted to sit and eat more of everything, which is a strong testament to the culinary talents of Chef Sandoval. My gastronomic tour of Mexico piqued my interest, and I'm dying to begin planning my first trip south of the border.
For much better photos of the food from this event, check out those taken by Jessica and Lon Binder of FoodMayhem.com. And, for more information about what it's actually like to eat in Mexico, pop over to Eat. Live. Travel. Write. to see what Mardi Michels had to say about her recent trip.
Maya New York
1191 First Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 585-1818 | Online Reservations | Map
Taste As You Go Disclaimer: I was provided with the opportunity to dine at this restaurant at no cost. I do not accept monetary compensation for writing about my experiences. All opinions expressed are my own.