South African fusion restaurant a hit in Houston

14 January 2014

Peli Peli, the only South African restaurant concept in Texas and the first South African fusion restaurant concept in the United States, has been selected as a 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winner for the Top 100 American Fare Restaurants in the United States.

The awards, presented last month by online reservation site OpenTable, reflect the combined opinions of more than 5-million restaurant reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for approximately 19 000 restaurants across the US.

Peli Peli and Masraff’s, a local Houston favorite, were the only restaurants in Houston to make OpenTable’s Top 100 list for 2013.

According to its website, OpenTable is the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations, seating more than 12-million diners per month via online booking across approximately 30 000 restaurants.

For the Top 100, OpenTable considered all restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “American cuisine” was selected as a special feature.

According to Peli Peli, about eighty percent of its menu comprises American fare with a unique “South African twist” reflecting the culinary melting pot that exists in South Africa. The other twenty percent comprises authentic family recipes catering to South Africans living and travelling abroad.

“I wanted to make sure that Peli Peli reminds South Africans of home,” Paul Friedman, Peli Peli’s owner and executive chef, said in a recent statement. “I want more people to see what South African cuisine is all about, but I also need to feed my fellow South Africans.”

Being the only South African concept in Texas has been beneficial in distinguishing Peli Peli from over 7 000 restaurants in the Greater Houston area, but, says Friedman, it has also presented a unique set of problems, such as being unfamiliar with customers and incomparable to any other restaurant concept.

“It was very difficult at first to get customers to give us a try, because most people have never had South African cuisine before,” said Friedman. “But what makes us special is that our cuisine is so different.”

Being different has helped Peli Peli to create a strong following while picking up a number of awards, including Best Service & Best Atmosphere (Readers’ Choice Award, Houston Press) and Best Romantic Restaurant (Click2Houston.com).

Peli Peli currently ranks fourth out of 7 119 restaurants in Houston according to tripadvisor.com, and has garnered a reputation for being the perfect place for special occasions.

SAinfo reporter and Peli Peli