By Sara Newberry
Maya’s Modern Mediterranean is the newest eatery in the Casa Linda shopping center, located in the space that was formerly occupied by Alligator Cafe. It’s exciting to have a Middle Eastern place so close by.
I approached Maya’s Modern Mediterranean like this: the menu is kind of a gateway to more authentic versions of the dishes they serve. Through this lens, they are very successful. This is not to say that the food being served at Maya’s isn’t pretty tasty. I definitely enjoyed most of the dishes I tried.
Hummus is a universally familiar starting point (it is maybe the only dish that has kept its original name) and Maya’s is creamy and heavy on tahini. It’s a little soft, flavorwise; I would have liked a little more lemon and garlic. But it’s more than acceptable. I enjoy hummus, but I might be in the minority when I say I prefer its lesser-known cousin baba ganouj. Made with smoky roasted eggplant, I will choose it over hummus any day. Maya’s is creamy and smoky with just the right nutty flavor and acid to keep it from veering into bitterness.
Rolled beef kabobs (aka kafta) are basically spiced ground beef formed around a skewer and grilled. They are often dry and a little bland, but Maya’s are not at all; they are well cooked and well-seasoned. Also, somewhat traditional is the roasted chicken, which is Maya’s version of shawarma.
Traditionally shawarma is cooked on a vertical rotisserie, but Maya’s is baked, then tossed with a spice mix. Again, it’s not authentic, really, but it’s packed with flavor.
Honey kabobs are a twist on a standard Middle Eastern kabob. They are a little sweet, but not cloying. The chicken was tender, with a little crispness on the edges. Roasted peppers and onions were perfect alongside.
Falafel was the least successful of the main dishes we tried; they are air-fried, and the flavor is okay, but the texture is dry and a little crumbly.
Plates are served with sides, which are also available on their own. Air-fried French fries were surprisingly crunchy, but needed a dash of salt. A chopped salad had a lovely tang of lemon balanced by cooling parsley.
Turmeric rice is beautifully yellow, and pairs well with all of the mains. The only side I didn’t love was the brussels sprout slaw; it reminded me of fast-food cole slaw and didn’t really seem to go with anything else on the menu.
Chocolate hummus is Maya’s signature dessert. I’m … not sure. I liked the flavor — it was chocolatey enough, but I didn’t love the grainy texture. I appreciate the effort, but I would love to see a simplified baklava or knefeh on the menu (call it “Middle Eastern cheesecake”).
Maya’s Modern Mediterranean wants to make Middle Eastern-style food more accessible to those who might not know what to order when faced with the traditional names of dishes. Kafta becomes rolled beef, shawarma becomes roast chicken, and baba ganoush is renamed eggplant dip. While some think of this as cultural appropriation, I think that if it makes someone more apt to try the dishes (and maybe eventually visit a more authentic place), it’s not all bad.
Maya’s Modern Mediterranean
9540 Garland Road
Sunday – Thursday
11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday – Saturday
11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.