One of the great simple pleasures of traveling abroad is stumbling upon a restaurant frequented by locals, followed closely by bathing in gelato and loudly explaining why everything in America is better. Replicate that feeling with today’s Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of upscale global fusion cuisine at Peli Peli.
With a menu inspired by its African namesake spice, Peli Peli whisks guests away on an internationally inspired culinary voyage amidst avant-garde architecture, which earned the eatery the titles of Houston’s Best Romantic Bar and Best Live Music Venue from Citysearch in 2009. Executive chef Paul Friedman puts 35 years of industry experience into each dish he crafts, lovingly marinating the signature flame-pepper chicken with guava and peli-peli, an African bird's-eye chili spice ($18). Pepper and olive oil spike the seared Chilean sea bass ($14 for lunch; $30 for dinner) and beefy Huguenot fillets ($16 for lunch; $34 for an 8-oz. dinner portion) show their sweet side with a sauce of cherries, raspberries, and unsolicited compliments. Sunday brunch, available from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., eases between-meal hunger pangs with dishes of eggs florentine and peli-peli hash ($18) or a rib-eye steak and eggs ($24).
Fueled by an award-winning live-music soundtrack, Peli Peli doubles as a hangout for jazz lovers and flamenco dancers. Tunes begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and often accompany Sunday brunch as well. When not cutting rugs with their feet or their steak knives, guests can relax beneath a 30-foot acacia tree inside or shoot spitballs at the big dipper from an outdoor table.
Chef and owner Paul Friedman channels his international roots into the fusion fare at Peli Peli, named for the South African spice that flavors its signature flame-pepper chicken dish. His menu mingles European-style focaccia and Chilean sea bass with South African classics such as homemade boerewors sausage, washing it all down with rivers of South African [wine]. (http://www.pelipeli.com/Menu.aspx?CatID=15). Chef Paul was recently honored with the Chef of Chefs award for his traditional South African bobotie dish at Houston's 2013 Wine & Food Week. He also mixes the selection of dipping sauces—such as mint mojito, roasted garlic, and spicy ginger—that tag along with each entree, enabling a different burst of flavor or color of cocktail-napkin art with each bite. The food's not the only thing that expresses Peli Peli's South African influences. The dining room's glowing, 30-foot-tall central pillar recalls the nation's towering acacia trees, anchoring an avant-garde architectural scheme that the Houston Chronicle calls "eye-popping." Voted Houston’s Best Live Music Venue as well as Best Romantic Bar by Citysearch users in 2009, the moodily lit space also hosts live music Monday–Saturday evenings and live jazz during Sunday brunch.