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Restaurant Peli Peli, the flavors of south Africa in the heart of Houston

By Elsie Mendez

Africa has always been, and will be, on my wish list of places to know on this planet, the issue is not whether it succeeds, or when it succeeds. Think on this continent, we remote to something very, but very distant and at times almost unattainable. That’s why the chef Paul Friedman I think the restaurant Peli Peli, with the dishes most emblematic of south Africa and those flavors that distinguish this country in the African continent, which is located within the shopping center Galleria Houston. We went to meet him and this is our review of Peli Peli, which brings south Africa to the heart of Houston.

I have visited hundreds of times in one of the malls more famous in the united States: Galleria Houston, in fact I have lost count of it, and for one reason or another I never visit the restaurant Peli Peli, I think that that time in which prefer to do purchases, to eat has been very back because I now prefer to eat before to continue to do purchases, without a doubt, my priorities changed and that allows me to discover new places – at least for me – as Peli Peli in Houston.

When you arrive at Peli Peli one moves up the south african bush as the entrance to the restaurant the first thing you see is the trunk and the branches of the famous tree of life called Acacia, and inside in the main hall, a representation of its branches covers all over the ceiling, making changes throughout the day in the lighting, giving the same feeling that acacia when one sits under its shadow. To immerse ourselves in that world in which he was born and grew up, the chef Paul is your priority to be able to appreciate and understand the flavors that we’re about to find out.

Of jewish origin, and now converted to christianity, the chef Paul and his team wanted to honor those two roots that have formed and therefore, when the time of the construction of the restaurant Peli Peli, also in the main hall, were constructed of 12 columns that represent the tribes of Israel, and within them there are bibles in different languages: Spanish, English, German among others that the same chef and his nearest staff were placing one at a time. These details speak to us of the importance for the chef is to preserve the traditions from which it comes.

To start the journey through the flavors we came to the table a Bilton Broad an entry that consists of cured meat very traditional south Africa by the nomadic tribes, the meat is juicy and tender, came also the Chichen Sosaties, a dishes with Dutch influence that is composed of chicken thighs marinated with a sauce of peaches and a mango chutney served with rice south african. The Bobotie is like a shepherds pie but their version of south africa and highlighting the many influences that there are in the cuisine of this country due to the many different cultures of many countries that there were meeting due to the mines of gold and diamonds (among other treasures), and that they were founded by English, Dutch, German, to indians who were part of the labor that I when England was in control of that country. This dish consists of minced meat seasoned with curry which is the indian influence, below this the pure carrot and potato infusionado with cilantro, which corresponds to the English influence, covered with a crust of pasta flaky that it is of French influence and the mango chutney. And as if all this weren’t enough the Boerewors Sausage, the word Boerewors means sausages farm in africa, the sausage farmers do in south Africa which is made with 50% beef and 50% pork meat and its characteristic is that it has only meat and very little fat which is accompanied with the sauce Chakalaka, a special of the chef Paul. Finally (that sounds like a lot but there were 4 in the table) the Peppadew, which in appearance looks like a chile but it is a fruit and is discovered only in 1993 in south Africa, and comes from the family of tomatoes. The way in which the prepare is in vinegar and added cheese to the inside of the cavity and that is a delight.

And while I tell the rest of the dishes I explain to them because the restaurant called Peli Peli. The name is the shape of German call the Piri Piri, a chili tiny and very picoso who came to south Africa by the Portuguese who were taken from their territories in India. This chile has become part of the culture and culinary tradition of south Africa, and is the base of the kitchen. For the market in the united States, chef Paul has done a mix to make it less spicy and tolerant to palates that do not have a high tolerance for spicy.

In terms of wines these come directly from south Africa from a winery with which they have made a good alliance to produce the seven tags that offer between them, the Pinotage is a grape that is I think in south Africa the clones of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (also known as Hermitage) and there goes the acronym Pinotage. The Pinot Noir that came to south Africa by the French had never been able to give, and a professor of the university work in different crosses to achieve this distinctive and flavorful grape . The Chardonnay of Peli Peli in its label carries the word Freedom (freedom) is a wine easy to drink with notes of vanilla that should not be missed.

In our table can never miss the soup (love without control soups, a meal without it is like not to have eaten) and that’s why we ask for the Carrot Ginger Soup made with carrots, orange and ginger and cream and a little bit of the seasoning that makes the chef with peli peli. The Peli Peli Gumbo takes chicken, sausage, south african, vegetable, milk, and bread south african who is wheat flour and is done as a mass and use it as a bread, the way to eat it is to each spoonful add a little bit of Mieliepap. This soup is wonderful, aromatic and very tasty, a must in the restaurant Peli Peli.

Up to now, the chef Paul and his team we were gifted a number of flavors and ingredients totally unknown to us and the trip was rewarding and very fun, it was time to get to the entrees. The lamb is a meat that predominates in many dishes south african and Peli Peli comes in the form of chops called Great Karoo Lamb Chops spiced and marinated with lemon juice, combination of herbs and Peli Peli accompanied by a mint sauce of the house. The flavor of the Peli Peli is what makes them different to others that we had tried before.

Being so close to the sea it is mandatory to have a dish that shelter the fruits of this and for that, the chef Paul created the Cape Town Skillet in which it is found: tiger shrimps, scallops, shrimp, peli peli, mussels, squid stir fry, all-about-style rice south Africa. A feast in itself, the dish with the fresh taste and which highlights the great quality of the product. This dish comes with a sauce seasoned with Peli Peli.

Another dish insignia of south Africa is the Espetada very traditional country and that comes with a huge skewer which hangs from a hook with marinated beef and grilled and as side dish with herb butter and garlic, stir-fried baby spinach, red potatoes roasted and Bredie of carrots (the bredie is of south african origin and prepared with vegetables and meat). In the top of the skewer, place the butter so that this drain, and bathe the meat.

To accompany our dishes the Peli Peli Courage of grape Pinotage 2014, a joy considering that in Mexico is not easy to get south african wines and less with this grape.

For the sweet ending, the Chocolate Mousse, Sticky Toffee Cheesecake.

The power of food on our brain to make us live an amazing experience and that this build up new flavors, aromas, textures, and shapes that remain there forever is what makes visiting a place like Peli Peli become something that we must not let pass by.

Houston has many reasons to visit it as a tourist destination, and the restaurant Peli Peli must be among the most important.

For more information visit https://www.pelipeli.com/index.aspx