Peli Peli Extends Signature South African Fare to Katy Starting July 24

The group behind Peli Peli is on a roll with the debut of a fifth venture, this time in Katy’s prime dining and retail development of LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch. The new location adds to a roster that already includes two other upscale Peli Peli restaurants and fast-casual Peli Peli Kitchen and Peli Deli. All are operated by partners Thomas Nguyen, chef Paul Friedman, and Michael Tran, the management team behind South African fusion company. “I couldn’t be more excited and proud to have the chance to share our South African cuisine with more people and especially in a community like Katy,” says executive chef Paul Friedman. “We started in the Champions and Spring area which shares many similarities, so we are hopeful that Katy will embrace our melting pot of flavors.”

At 4,000 square feet, the new location is a bit smaller than its sister stores, but still boasts a good-sized patio, small private room, and the signature light and art fixtures for which the brand has become famous. The glow of LEDs grace the interior canopy as well as the patio, and custom light displays also brighten the bar. The “light show” will gradually change throughout the day resulting in a variable look and mood unique to the Katy location. Hand painted mandalas and murals offer additional visual stimulation. Guests may have to look twice to identify references to Katy and South Africa within the pieces. Local artist Scott Tarbox painted the first mural and additional Houston artists will lend their talents on others.

The interior features Peli Peli’s signature design elements including custom LED lights and unique architectural features. Photo courtesy of Peli Peli

As for the food, diners who have come to love South African cuisine, a unique fusion of French, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Indian, Indonesian, Malayan and Italian flavors will appreciate the familiar offerings like bobotie, South African-style filet, and kingklip fish. Traditional American tastes are also embraced by way of chicken, steak and seafood. Those seeking fresh takes can delight in menu newcomers such as fire-roasted Knysna Oysters served on housemade Parmesan crackers with Peli salsa, peppadews, and cilantro; Korean-style Marinated Short Rib Surf & Turf featuring rib, shrimp, and oysters; or the Cape Malay Chicken Potjie Pot that emphasizes Indian flavors through masala curry, chicken, vegetables, banana chutney, and toasted coconut. Fans of South African “jerky” can order the Biltong & Charcuterie Board with original, spicy, and garlic-seasoned biltong. All of the new items will be available at all three of the Peli Peli locations (not Peli Peli Kitchen or Peli Deli).

The wine list is almost 90-percent South African and focused on a range of price points meant to encourage diners to try something new. Of the 75 boutique and underrated bottles offered, only eight are not from South Africa. Expect labels from producers like Anthonij Rupert, Jane and David Lello (who produce Peli Peli’s private label), and Jose Conde. Those seeking beer can choose from fresh selections like Hofbrau Dunkel, Presidio La Bahia, Boomtown Blonde, and Moose Drool Brown Ale. A decided perk is the weekday happy hour from 2 to 7 p.m. when cocktails, beer and wines by the glass are available at half price. Special wine flights will be unveiled at a later date and signature cocktails will be poured beginning in September.

The ambitious opening pace may cause pause for some watching the evolution, but Nguyen says expansion to the west side of town was a natural next step. “We admit that opening in Katy was a bit aggressive, but we have always wanted to open here since I have lived in Katy since 1979 and graduated from Mayde creek High school,” he explains. “In fact, two of us [owners] live in Cinco Ranch now. We believe the spot we have in LaCenterra is the perfect one, so we did everything in our power to make it happen.”

The perennially favorite bobotie remains on the menu. Photo by Dragana Harris

Perhaps one of the reasons for Peli Peli’s success is its passionate embracing of diversity in cuisines and cultures. “As long as you’re bringing people together to enjoy good food, we think you’re doing the right thing,” says Nguyen. “So far, that has worked for us.”

Never the type to rest on their laurels, the team is launching another new spot in Austin later this year. Lucky for us, we got Peli Peli first.

Visit the new Peli Peli starting on July 24 at 23501 Cinco Ranch in Katy.

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