Restaurant review: Mayan Grill

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Jun 17, 2011 - Page 14

Opened three months ago in a swanky two-story building behind the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei, Mayan Grill is an ideal place to impress a date or close that business deal.

The villa-like, spacious interior is aimed toward an upscale clientele. Tapestries, paintings and large mirrors adorn white walls that are framed by large chestnut brown beams. A partially stocked bar at the back rises up to a glass atrium, enabling patrons on the second floor to watch their margaritas (starting at NT$215) or sangrias (NT$180) being mixed. The first floor has two and four-seater tables, while the upper level can accommodate larger groups, and benefits from considerable tropical foliage and a gallery out front. Comfortable wicker sofas and deep chairs are ideal for whiling an evening away over a bottle of tequila.

The guacamole, salsa and many of the menu’s dishes are made from scratch, and the hard tacos are fried in trans-fat free oil. When ordering tacos (soft, hard, salad bowl), burritos or rice bowls from the entree menu, patrons have a choice of grilled chicken or pork (NT$295 and NT$305), spicy ground US beef (NT$315) or shredded US steak (NT$335).

Mayan Grill has several lunch specials: basic (soft or hard taco, soup, salad and rice, NT$249), full (two tacos, soup, salad, rice and coffee or tea, NT$349) and slow (chips and salsa, two tacos or one burrito, soup, salad, rice, coffee or tea and daily dessert, NT$499). My dining companion and I ordered the basic spicy shredded US beef soft taco and basic grilled chicken soft taco, with flautitas (NT$255) for an appetizer.

The flautitas alone are worth a visit to Mayan Grill. Five soft tortillas with the texture of dessert pastry were wrapped around robust grilled chicken and fresh veggies and served with a tangy green sauce surrounded by sour cream. When asked for something to spice up the dish, a server promptly brought two tincture bottles of “Diablo Devil’s Water” — one called “blood” (super spicy), the other “tears” (spicy). A few dribbles of the “devil’s blood” left me happily sweating and thirsty for a libation.

The moist and succulent stringy US beef in the other soft taco packed a mouth-burning punch, slightly offset by a tangy, lemon-infused marinade. Be sure to ask your server about the spice level of the dishes you order as they are not described on the menu. The long-grain “green rice” served with the specials is cooked with cilantro and parsley, which gave it a slightly bitter though delicious taste, and went well with the sauteed onion and green pepper.

Mayan Grill’s menu also features grilled pork (NT$645), pan-seared steak (NT$1,250) and a chicken dish (NT$695) that “will leave you feeling ready to conquer civilization.” Whether true or not, the relaxed ambiance and delicious food at Mayan Grill left me ready to “conquer” the afternoon. A selection of mid to high-end tequilas is available as are several Mexican beers.

A warning: Check your bill closely when paying because there is something wrong with Mayan Grill’s touch-screen cash register — to the extent that employees have nicknamed it “POS” (piece of shit). What this means for the customer is that you might be significantly overcharged — in my case by over NT$500.