Maia Review: Your Table Is (Finally) Ready

It was three years in the making. Now can Villanova’s Maia eclipse its own hype?

 From the earliest whispers back in 2005, Maia sounded like an overly ambitious proposition: a high-end restaurant, plus a casual bistro, plus a prepared-foods market, plus a cafe. But if any chefs were up to such a challenge, it would be Maia’s masterminds, brothers Patrick and Terence Feury. Terence helmed the stove at Striped Bass in its glory days, while Patrick cooked at New York City’s storied Le Cirque. Main Line residents, yearning for another spot like Patrick’s wildly successful Nectar, started counting down to their first taste of Maia.

After even-longer-than-usual delays, Maia was widely expected to open in the fall of 2007. But architectural and design issues kept the place shuttered an additional six months. Nonstop press mentions held Maia in the limelight; the restaurant earned a New York Times mention a full eight months before anyone had tasted its food.

In spite of all the pre-opening fanfare, Maia’s May 2008 launch was subdued. The restaurant, just off Route 30 in Villanova, sits in a newly minted strip mall, where it shares a brick facade with an office-supply joint and a gym. From the parking lot, only the sign on the building distinguishes it from the adjacent big-box stores. It definitely doesn’t have the curb appeal of the most eagerly anticipated restaurant in Main Line history.

Diners enter the upscale restaurant through a back entrance, but once you’re inside, there’s a reassuringly ornate knotted wood sculpture serving as a hostess stand. Luxe details dominate the lounge area, which is outfitted with snazzy banquettes and glossy tables. A sheet of polished Italian marble provides the bar’s backdrop, and a dramatic communal table runs the length of the room, its surface bisected by a glistening bed of ice waiting to chill raw-bar orders. The main dining room sets a slightly subtler scene, though drama drips from a large cluster of ­cinnamon-hued stalactites. The spendy style, at least, is consistent with the buildup.

Once seated, you’re presented with a cocktail list and pressed for a drink order before you get a look at the dinner menu — an issue for those who want to pair a glass of wine with their first course. Cocktail lovers can’t miss with the fresh limoncello margarita or the peach-elderflower martini.