“Maia is many things. . . .”
Craig LaBan visits Villanova’s Maia and finds the cafe, bistro, market, bar and fine-dining room is indeed many things, all of them good.
It is upstairs, though, where Maia hits its culinary mark, with a breadth of wit, technique and vivid flavors that make it a true successor to (now shuttered) Striped Bass as our modern seafood mecca.
That smoked tuna starter was a knockout, the hickory tang focusing the sweetness of raw fish against the piquance of a silky green-olive puree. But there were many other winners. A checkerboard mosaic of raw salmon, yellowtail and tuna was scattered with celery salt and glittery cubes of tart citrus gelee. Creamy coins of hazelnut-crusted foie gras came shingled with sweet warm rounds of barbecued eel. The meltingly soft double-headed prawn (actually two crustaceans joined at the tail with meat glue) reposed over a mound of creamy leeks.
There were equally stunning entrees, like the T-bone of poached halibut over fregola sarda filled with fennel and house-cured guanciale, or the crispy snapper with basiled summer beans and tender rings of oil-poached calamari threaded with chorizo slivers.
3 Bells – Excellent