End of an Era: Peli Peli to be Replaced by Another South African Restaurant

Seared Scallops Trinchado

After a dozen years combined, all remaining Peli Peli South African Kitchen locations are closing for good on September 5. The Woodlands and Galleria restaurants — the only ones that still remain — are being replaced by Mozambik, a restaurant that started in South Africa that also has locations in Zambia. The new restaurant debuts on September 10 at the 1201 Lake Woodlands address in The Woodlands, and the Galleria restaurant will soon follow suit. The owners’ intent is that these are just the first two locations, and that Mozambik will expand to other parts of the United States.

The last 18 months have been a trying time for Peli Peli. Officially, the original Vintage Park location closed in March 2020 due to the dining room closures ordered by Governor Greg Abbott to attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the seams were starting to show. There were never official closing announcements, but both Peli Peli Vintage Park and casual spinoff Peli Peli Kitchen simply failed to return. A prior attempt at a Peli Peli Kitchen stand inside Whole Foods in Independence Heights apparently failed to take off. As of August 2020, the Katy location of Peli Peli was still being reported as “temporarily closed”. The Woodlands and Galleria locations, however, reopened and continued to operate until now.

In the meantime, Thomas Nguyen, who’d greatly been the driver of Peli Peli’s marketing and public relations, left his managing role to join commercial real estate firm CBRE in February. More recently, Peli Peli chef Paul Friedman reopened the original Vintage Park restaurant as his own concept, The Chef’s Table.

Ryan Stewart and Macey Maples
Mozambik co-owner Ryan Stewart and executive chef for United States locations, Macey Maples. Photos by Leah Wilson.

There’s a big connection between Peli Peli Kitchen and Mozambik. Co-owner and chef Ryan Stewart, a Johannesburg native, took over as Peli Peli Kitchen’s culinary director in early 2019, and during his tenure, brought his rendition of Peri Peri Chicken to the concept. While it wasn’t enough to save Peli Peli Kitchen, clearly it proved that Houston has room for more places that serve peri peri chicken as well as the popular Afro-Portuguese food that Mozambik serves in South Africa and Zambia. In fact, Stewart had already added some of Mozambik’s dishes for a test drive at Peli Peli.

Some examples of other dishes that Mozambik will serve have substantial overlap with some of the mainstays that earned permanent spots on Peli Peli’s menus, including espetadas (seared meat on skewers) and bobotie (a savory mix of minced meat and fruits). In a sense, the sticky toffee pudding will live on, too, but this time, in cheesecake form. Area diners will also experience new flavors thanks to the additions of Sodwana Bay crab cakes and Malay curry

Mozambik's Sticky Toffee Cheesecake
Mozambik’s Sticky Toffee Cheesecake. Photo by Raul Casares and Sean Maxwell.

Macey Maples, who was Peli Peli’s chef de cuisine starting in 2018, will serve as Mozambik’s executive chef in the United States, and she has a strong Texas background. She grew up in Spring and started in the restaurant industry at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel before leaving to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. 

Like Peli Peli, there will also be a strong emphasis on underappreciated South African wines, including Pinotage. One of the big draws on the Mozambik spirits list will be Tipo Tinto rum, which is made in its namesake country. The restaurant will also serve the R&R cocktail made with the aforementioned rum and Sparletta Sparberry, a raspberry flavored soda.

While undoubtedly diners will miss Peli Peli, as it had a fair share of very loyal fans, the good news is that South African food will persist in Houston, a town that is known for embracing many cultures and cuisines.

Update: we were initially provided with September 9 as the opening date of Mozambik in The Woodlands, and later received a correction that it’s actually on September 10. 

Comments (7)

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  • January 19, 2022 at 10:42 amJoy Riles

    I just hope they at least have some type of sticky toffee cake besides the cheesecake 😩😩 The sticky toffee cake was my favorite. I enjoyed the food as well but some of the new dishes look amazing just pleaseeeeee keep the sticky toffee cake too

  • October 15, 2021 at 4:55 pmMyra

    My family and I loved PeliPeli in the original Vintage location but were often disappointed when dining at the expansion locations. Unfortunately we have unused PeliPeli gift cards and wish PeliPeli had warned us of the need to get them used before closing.

    • January 11, 2022 at 5:07 pmDINER

      Was a huge fan of Peli Peli and so sad to know that it is gone. I too have unused gift cards that would have been used had I known of it’s demise. It was gift from my college son since he knew that Peli Peli was a favorite…..his hard earned money gone to waste.

  • October 8, 2021 at 4:33 pmBruce Misamore

    I was a big fan of Paul and Peli Peli when it first opened at Vintage. We went there often and took friends. Then, the food changed much for the worse after he expanded to other locations and brought other investors in. Much spicier and some of the original menu items disappeared and the prices went way up. We quit going. We’re going to try Mozambik this evening and see if South African is still alive in Houston or not.

  • October 6, 2021 at 6:38 pmJ

    I LOVED Peli Peli from it’s first days in Houston until they took EVERYTHING that I loved off of the menu and started adding cheap filler type of food at the same price of the quality food that they once provided. It’s the same formula that has lead many great restaurants out of business. I don’t know why they think we don’t recognize these things. The food was amazing and I bragged about them to any listening ear and took many people there. The last 2 times that I went…..I was so underwhelmed and upset that all my favorites were off the menu and the portion sizes were ridiculously small! Rice is cheap. When you’re skimping on rice you just have 0 respect for your customers and I have 0 desire to patronize such a place and stopped going! Not sure if I’ll give the new brand a try. I’m pretty put off by the restaurant industry in general lately. I know that they took a hit with Covid, but we all did. I can’t and won’t spend my money and not get what I consider to be fair value in return.

    • October 7, 2021 at 3:47 pmPhaedra Cook

      Very sorry you had those bad experiences. It’s always a sign that a restaurant is on the way out when the food portions and quality heads downhill. Thanks for the comment.