One of the more interesting and unique restaurants in Houston is Peli Peli. Specializing in South African cuisine, the upscale restaurant brings new ingredients and dishes to the diverse Houston restaurant palette.
Peli Peli Kitchen is the fast casual concept that brings the flavors of South Africa to Houston in a more relaxed, affordable setting. It has opened on the west bound I-10 feeder at Campbell, easily accessible from downtown or the west side.
(Disclaimer: The team at PPK was so anxious for us to try their new restaurant they invited us to a special tasting, sent their corporate jet to whisk us from the Woodlands to Houston’s near west side, and plied us with their well selected house wines and craft beers before sending out course after course for our degustation. OK, they didn’t send the jet.)
The team behind Peli Peli is an experienced one. Partners Thomas Nguyen, Aiki Kong “Michael” Tran, and Executive Chef Paul Friedman, bring their expertise in operations, marketing, finance, and of course cuisine and menu development.
Stepping inside the bright, airy space, your eye is immediately drawn to the beautiful original artwork that covers different surfaces throughout the restaurant. The seemingly abstract art represents different aspects of the business, from the partners, to South African references, to interesting details that reflect the concept and sensibilities of the Peli Peli operation.
But how’s the food? We previewed several of the dishes on the well curated menu. Here are our first impressions.
First up was one of PPK’s breakfast dishes, the smoke salmon rosti. This South African take on a large breakfast taco includes smoked salmon, chopped hash browns, sautéed spinach, goat cheese, capers, a poached egg, hollandaise, and PPK’s signature peppadew peppers, wrapped in fresh naan.
It’s one of the most exciting takes on a breakfast taco we can remember tasting. Chef Paul skillfully combines the smokey salmon, creamy hollandaise, warm, comforting hash browns, and the zesty zing of the peppers. It’s an entirely new flavor profile, but one we’re already craving again.
Next, we sampled one of PPK’s cleverly conceived sandwiches. Warm, slightly sweet brioche was combined with hearty slices of pork belly, rubbed with hickory mesquite and slow roasted. Combined with fried onions, cilantro, and peppadew peppers, the balance of this dish was delightful. It’s the perfect grab and go lunch for those in a hurry but not willing to compromise on flavor.
This classic from the American South was slow-cooked until the incredibly tender meat falls off the bone. The subtle, layered flavors are sure to delight any aficionado of southern cooking
We’ve always enjoyed Chef Paul Friedman’s South African fusion cuisine at Peli Peli, and are impressed by how the team has edited and distilled the essence of what makes that restaurant wonderful into this new elevated fast casual concept. If you’ve been to Peli Peli you’ll love this place; if you haven’t, it’s an accessible, affordable introduction into the bold flavors and wonderful experience of South African cooking.