South African Restaurant Peli Peli Secures Lease in Katy

The main dining room in Peli Peli's Galleria location.
The main dining room in Peli Peli's Galleria location.
Photo by Troy Fields

Another full-fledged Peli Peli restaurant is in the works and co-owner Thomas Nguyen says it is destined for Katy. 

The notable South African restaurant is set to open its third full-fledged location and fourth overall restaurant in the former Kenzo Sushi Bistro in the La Centerra shopping center at 23501 Cinco Ranch. (The third restaurant, a more casual spot called Peli Peli Kitchen, is currently under construction at 9090 Katy Freeway.)  No opening date has been set for the new Katy restaurant yet, since it's still very early in the process.

To Nguyen, Katy is a natural fit for a new location, especially because he grew up there. "I feel that we were destined for Katy because I went to school there (Mayde Creek, 1994) and two of the owners currently live in Cinco Ranch, less than two miles away from La Centerra," he wrote. 

The restaurant group, which is led by Nguyen, chef and native South African Paul Friedman, and Michael Tran, has been on a high-profile track over the past two years. The restaurant's original location, in Vintage Park, has long been noted for being one of the very few in the United States to serve South African fare.

The group opened the second Peli Peli location in the Galleria a little more than a year ago, a glitzy spot with modernist takes on some of the original design aspects of the Vintage Park location. For example, the famous acacia tree in the center of the dining room at the original location is figuratively represented by a canopy of lights at the Galleria spot. 

As far as the design of the Katy location goes, look for it to have its own unique identity, too. Nguyen says, "Katy will be different from Vintage Park and from the Galleria for sure. I know the focus will be on creating a unique dining room that people have never seen before while making sure it's something that Katy residents will appreciate. Katy doesn't have a lot of fine dining, so we hope to become the destination for date night and special occasions." 

The espetada, a crowd-pleasing skewer of buttery, marinated beef at Peli Peli's Galleria location.
The espetada, a crowd-pleasing skewer of buttery, marinated beef at Peli Peli's Galleria location.
Photo by Troy Fields

Since the opening of the second location, new developments have proceeded at a rapid pace. Peli Peli Kitchen was announced at the end of last year, along with a controversial Kickstarter campaign that was ultimately abandoned. The team made headlines for their huge win on CNBC's Restaurant Startup, with restaurateur Elizabeth Blau pledging a $1.25 million investment in Peli Peli Kitchen. 

Unfortunately, as Culturemap Houston first reported in January, the win didn't result in the team's actually receiving an investment. Nguyen first told Culturemap that Blau balked at the amount of debt the group took on to open the Galleria location.

We asked Nguyen for an update on that situation, and it turns out the team not only didn't get the $1.25 millon investment from Blau, but they haven't really even kept in touch. The Peli Peli Kitchen project is moving forward nonetheless. Nguyen says, "We are in a better position now anyways and look forward to the growth." 

There is other exciting news, and it relates to the design of both Peli Peli Kitchen and the new restaurant destined for Katy. Nguyen says they have retained respected architectural firm Collaborative Projects for this task. The principals, Jim and Jonas Herd, are responsible for designing many successful Houston restaurants and bars, including The Pastry War, Bernie's Burger Bus and recently opened Morningstar in the Heights. Although it was hoped that Peli Peli Kitchen would be open by now, the new bet is that it will open in August or September. 

At the rate the Houston-grown restaurant chain is expanding, there will soon be no excuse not to be familiar with South African wines and classic dishes like bobotie and espetada


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