Peli Peli Galleria

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FEATURED RESTAURANT

BY MIKE PUCKETT

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Peli Peli Galleria is located in the Galleria Mall on Westheimer – just outside the 610 West Loop.

The South African Fusion served here is the best I have ever eaten… a strong statement, but true. I have enjoyed South African cuisine for many years now, but here at Peli Peli it is just a little different… a little better.

The Galleria location is simply stunning. There are a number of different areas, each offering a different ambiance. They have outdoor seating which would be wonderful for brunch. I can see right away this is gonna be a local vacation to South Africa. Not sure if you know this about me, but “I like Vacation!”

Our very cheery group sat in the bar/ lounge area. The art is beautiful throughout the restaurant but especially so in here. As you can see in the photography, the vibrant colors paint a perfect picture of the unique and exquisite meal we would soon experience.

We started off with a glass of wine. Our wonderful server suggested the Peli Peli Reserve Private Label from South Africa – an excellent choice. It is described as a full-bodied and semi-tannic vintage where flavors of currant, cedar, chocolate, and fruit mingle. Very nice.

Now, the exciting part… the starters! Keep in mind that the appetizers at Peli Peli are hearty and can hold their own as a full meal, but they are better shared with a small group.

First up were the Sautéed Calamari, Savory Sautéed Calamari, Spicy Butter and Peppadews & Peppers. Wow, I don’t get Sautéed Calamari every day, but maybe I should. Ha! This perfectly-cooked dish has just the right spice and the creaminess is delightful. If you are on the lookout for a Calamari dish with a little kick, then go for it!

So, what South African vacation is properly served without Bobotie, right? Here at Peli Peli, the Boboties are amazing! The photography does not do it justice. I should have dug into it first to show what it looked like under that beautiful crust – a piece of art in itself! Made with Curried Ground Beef, Carrot Bredie and a built-in Flaky Pastry, the Bobotie here was one of the very best I had ever put in my mouth.

I was looking forward to sampling the Stuffed Mushrooms. Let’s just say they did not disappoint! This dish used Champignon Mushrooms and a Chilean Sea Bass Stuffing topped with delicious Peli Peli Sauce. Each bite is an experience in its own right.

One note about the Stuffed Mushrooms – the appetizer comes with five mushrooms. There were four of us… so I planned early and caught the last one while the others were playing games. I can’t say it went over swimmingly with the group, but it does say a lot about these stuffed mushrooms. If you can’t swim with the sharks, get out of the water. Ha!

Now, for the delicious Peli Peli Bacon-Wrapped Chicken made with Guava-Basted Chicken, bacon and Sweet Chili Sauce. Each bite was better than the last!  If you want something a little closer to home… then here ya go! If this dish were served with BBQ sauce it might be something you’d find in a small Texas town, but this is Peli Peli. The sweet chili sauce takes it over the top.

The various sauces they have here are just wonderful. Each one has its own unique flavor and all play important roles beyond just dipping.

One thing you can be sure of here at Peli Peli is that they have a great selection of wine. We went with the Stellekaya from South Africa. This well-balanced wine is noted as an intense, full-bodied wine flavored with cedar, black currents and a hint of cranberry. Recommended.

Coming up the home stretch, we sampled the Great Karoo Lamb Chops.  This succulent dish features four lamb chops, lemon juice, Peli Herb Mix (phenomenal, by the way) and a homemade mint sauce. Now, the homemade mint sauce is not a jelly like you usually see, but a full-fledged sauce that allows you to dip and chomp the chops… yes, I said it, chomp the chops! Awesome! These were the best lamb chops I had ever tasted. You must try this wonderful entrée – these lamb chops are like no other.

Another go-to dish is the Flavors of South Africa (Do you see a trend here?). The filet medallions are covered with the unbelievable Peli Peli Signature Sauces and are served with sautéed baby spinach and roasted red potatoes.

The Signature Sauces include: Madagascar Peppercorn – a green peppercorn cream sauce; Garlic Herb Butter – made with creamed butter, minced garlic, parsley and chives; The Diane – a Rustic Mushroom Cream Sauce, Peli Peli Sauce – a spicy cream sauce; and my favorite, the Huguenot -a raspberry chipotle sauce with creamy blue cheese and bacon. Does that sound like something you would be interested in?

If you are looking for a great seafood dish, then look no further. La Perla Seafood with a Tiger Prawn is your next trip to the beaches of South Africa! This amazing dish starts with an 8 oz, perfectly-pan-seared kinglip swimming over sautéed baby spinach.

If you are not familiar with kinglip, then here is a crash course: it is South Africa’s most popular eating fish and its firm white meat is not only low in fat, but simply delicious!

La Perla Seafood is also served with Peli Peli Shrimp, Scallops in a Butter Cream Sauce and Peli Herb Mix. This is no ordinary trip to the beach, guaranteed.

The Tiger Prawn was something I took head-on with Spicy Butter and Peli Peli Sauce, a highly recommended add-on that truly makes this dish one you will not soon forget. Check out the photography and you will see exactly what I mean.

The portions at Peli Peli are big enough to share with 4 people. Like I always preach, you should share this experience family-style. One of the best parts of my local vacation here was finding out what each one thought about the various dishes. And that is the best way you can try all these Good Eats!

So, now for what I like to call my nightcap. Ha! Desserts a-plenty here!

My favorite dessert was the Sticky Toffee Cheesecake: a sweet and tasty cheesecake with chunks of sticky toffee. This delightful dessert is a unique spin on the traditional cheesecake. A must-try, for sure!

We also enjoyed the Melktart Brûlée, a traditional South African dessert. Heaven on a plate? Some say so and I can’t disagree. The crust on this dessert is a masterpiece. Unbelievable!

Another favorite of mine, due to my exaggerated fascination with chocolate, was the Chocolate Mousse Cake. This rich German Chocolate Cake is layered with Chocolate Mousse. So rich and creamy… I fell in love at first bite!

We came to the conclusion that this wouldn’t just be an annual vacation to a spot that adds American flavors to South African dishes. Now that Peli Peli has opened up the new Galleria location, more of the city can take this trip as often as they please. I was told I needed to try the Vintage Park location on the north side of town. I will indeed and am looking forward to every bite!

Peli Peli Galleria definitely goes on my “Best of the Best” list. A wonderfully-romantic culinary journey traveled through all five senses – the type of experience we should have at every restaurant. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself!

PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT

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