Peyote. The Sauve Mexican

Guest Review by Marina Wilhelmsson.

Peyote is the name of a cactus that has no thorns, has a wonderful pink flower and has been known to be used as a drug. Maybe that is what made me choose it? 😉

Let me start off with the location. For me it was a bit of a surprise to learn that a financial district (DIFC) has both great views, fabulous art galleries and great restaurants. Just passing by, it looks like any dull corporate centre with tall office buildings and a sleek facade. But then you get inside and experience the wow-effect. Stairways, bridges between buildings, fountains, art galleries and palm trees. I had decided to go to Peyote but once I got there I could have picked any number of great sounding restaurants.

Peyote is a cool place and the interior matches the vibe. The staff is nice and there was even time for some chitchat with them on a slow Saturday afternoon. Suave is a word that comes to mind. Sophisticated, smooth, elegant and with an air of urban attitude. The sign above the bar says ”Tequila is cheaper than therapy”, so with this in mind I let the waiter seat me and bring the menu.

Sign in bar

If you pair the right wine with the right kind of food, it is like a symphony in your mouth and will make your taste buds swirl. When it comes to Mexican food, the right kind of alcohol is of course tequila and the signature drink is a margarita. Peyote has a range of different margaritas and I chose the ”Mothers day Margarita”, which is a standard margarita with a shot of red wine. Ay caramba! There was a whole mariachi band playing La Cucaracha in my mouth! The drink was just as good as it looks and paired perfectly with the food. Bear in mind, nothing cools down the heat from a habanero as well as tequila. Or is it the lime? Anyway….for those who do not drink alcohol i can say only this – eat more chips. Don’t drink water 😉

Margarita 2 (2) (1)

First plate of food is a complimentary cuatro of sauces with home made tortilla chips. There was a sweet and smoky sauce, an aioli, a tart green sauce and of course the hot as hell habanero sauce. The waiter was kind enough to warn me about it and he did so with a gentle smile. I thanked him and luckily came through the experience with only a mild burn! Trust me, the habanero is NOT to be played with. It has a kick that is awesome. It burns and stings but it also makes you want to eat more. Loco!

just a drop of habanero

Next dish was the green Ceviche with lime, cilantro, cucumber, halibut and radish. It came in at exactly the right moment to cool down the burn from the habanero. You get quite a small bowl of it, but it is just enough. The lime and cilantro make the fish stand out and the tiny pieces of cucumber and radish just add that extra dimension of crunch. If you are going to have just one dish, it must be a ceviche!

Third dish was sweet jalapeno fritters with an aioli dip. I just love fried peppers and pimientos padron and this is a take on that but with a twist. The jalapenos were just mildly hot and they were sweet, crunchy and warm. It was impossible to stop eating and especially when you have a margarita to go with it. It was so good that the dipping aioli was quite unnecessary, but it was good in it self. It had a hint of smoke which was really nice. I think it would have been perfect with ordinary fries.

Jalapeno fritters

Fourth dish was of course TACOS! There are different types of tacos on the menu and you can mix and match your plate. I chose one with meat and one with fish. The fish taco was a grilled sea bass with salsa verde, pickled red onions and a big heap of cilantro. Perfectly grilled fish with salsa verde is of course one of the best things you can eat and if you stuff it in a soft warm tortilla it’s even better. There was absolutely nothing that you could add to that taco to make it better. The meat taco was a slow braised beef short rib with salsa verde and cilantro. The meat was so tender that it fell apart just by looking at it and the flavour was just soft and sweet. I think it lacked a pinch of salt or maybe a drop (just one!) of the habanero sauce, but otherwise it was a bit of perfection.

tacos

Fifth dish came in as a complimentary one. I was surprised and already full, but I think the waiter told the kitchen about the crazy woman eating, taking photos, writing stuff down and smiling all to herself and they decided to give me more. In came a huge plate with quesadillas! The filling was a nice heap of mushrooms and cheese and salad. I was already stuffed and had no appetite for more but I had to try it. Maybe all the other dishes spoiled my taste buds already or maybe the mariachi band had taken a nap, but I felt like the quesadilla was quite bland. Mushrooms don’t taste much and the cheese was not salty enough. This is probably a dish that you should eat before any of the others or maybe as a single main course with a cold beer or a glass of white wine, it didn’t pair well with the last drops of my margarita. Just too bad that it came in last.

quesadilla

The dessert menu was very tempting, like who can say no to churros, but the five courses had me down and I needed another walk. I said no to dessert, although my sweet waiter tried to sweet talk me into some sweets (sweet I know), and I felt proud of mysef. You should leave when you are on top! So maybe next time I will try the churros because I am going back for more soon!

Peyote Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Chilis syndrome. Big brand = Bad food.

I love discovering new restaurants and talking about exciting new places to eat at but one of the main reasons behind this blog, was to talk about restaurants that have existed, survived and multiplied while others around them barely made it past the first year of operations.

How have some restaurant chains managed to open up a branch in every mall or every neighborhood? What is it, that drives business to these places? What makes them grow? Is it just because of the food or is it the brilliant marketing strategies? Is it the décor and lighting? Or is it just convenience?

Do people keep eating at places like TGIF, Chillis, Applebees, Shakespeare and Co, IHop and Tony Romas because the food is just amazing or is it just because they are familiar with the brand? They all seem to have identical menus and between them operate 20 odd restaurants in Dubai yet they keep expanding and drawing in customers. All this while Pedro your brilliant neighborhood chef, couldn’t keep his bistro afloat because of liquidity problems and lack of customers. There may be more than one reason for all this but I decided to go back to one of the best known chain restaurants in Dubai to try and figure out the secret formula to success.

I may have already been to every single Chillis branch in Dubai so we decided to meet some friends at Yas Mall for lunch at which is arguably the UAE’s most successful (non-fast food) restaurant. We managed to find a table with views of the Ferrari World roller coaster and were seated in a heartbeat so full marks for that. The order taker seemed to be well rehearsed, helpful and knowledgeable so that part was smooth as well.

We ordered the Melted Pepper Jack Ribeye, Margarita Grilled Chicken, Ancho Salmon and the Beef Enchiladas. Of all these dishes, the steak definitely stood out.. Medium cooked and lightly seasoned, just the way we like it. Initially, we weren’t too sure about the cheese topping but after taking a bite of the thick cut steak with the melted pepper jack, we realized that it was a potent combination.

The only other dish that came close to that was the Ancho Salmon. It was cooked all right and seasoned just fine but I wish I could say that about the other two dishes.

This was the description of the chicken margarita in the menu: Tender, juicy chicken breast, marinated with our classic Margarita flavoring and grilled to perfection. Served with citrus rice and black beans.

Yes, it was tender and it was juicy and it was served with black beans. That was about it. The Margarita flavor (whatever it was supposed to be) was not there. In fact the flavor was the taste of grilled chicken which we had to season with some salt. I had imagined a tomato purée of some sort (as in the pizza) smothered over the chicken for it to warrant that name. It did have some chopped tomatoes on the side but that was about it. Oh and the citrus Chile rice sounds like it would be infused with lemon zest or something right? No, there were no signs of any lemon anywhere. Just some rice, minus the citrus.

The most disappointing dish of the day was described as follows in the menu: Three Baked Enchiladas Filled With Taco Seasoned Beef, 3-Cheese Blend & Onion. Topped With Ancho Sauce, Melted 3-Cheese Blend, Chopped Cilantro and house made Corn & Black beans Salsa. Served With Rice & Black Beans.

Think of all the Mexican flavors you can imagine when someone says Taco seasoned beef. It was nothing like any of those. This was every Mexican foodie’s worst nightmare. It was so bland that they would build a wall around their borders to keep it out of the country. It was basically a wrap filled with salt flavored ground beef and cheese, topped with some cilantro. Sure, it was good looking and was overflowing with black beans from all sides but tasted a bit like a beef cheese wrap. Nothing more, nothing less.

So here is what I think I have learnt from this excursion to the land of Chillis. The photographs in the menu were mouthwatering, the seats were comfortable, the staff was friendly and the descriptions of the entrees were brilliant. So full  marks for packaging and presentation and all of that. The food looked pretty when it arrived and there was a lot of it too. It just lacked heart. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was put together on an assembly line like McDonalds. This seemed like a place where everyone follows the process but nobody has ultimate responsibility and nobody really cares. A place where nothing is personal. They probably believe in the mantra that ‘If you build it, they will come’ hence the multiple locations in every city. They also seem to know that the bigger and flashier you are, the more likely you are to succeed.

Unfortunately, the restaurants which have perfected this process are the ones that are thriving. They will expand while Pedro, your friendly neighborhood chef who prepares each order with care and personal attention will struggle. We can say it is the marketing prowess and easy flow of money that enables these places to open swanky new branches all the time but in reality it just comes down to one factor: YOU. You decide who stays in business and who packs up. You and I are ultimately the reason Pedro is having a hard time. Want your food to be prepared with a bit more love? Take a stand, stop eating at these food factories. Support the little guy at the corner of your street. As for me, all this writing is making me hungry. I think I’ll get Hardees for Lunch today.