The new Luna Maya is a heartbreaking disappointment.
Luna Maya used to be one of the most unique, authentic, and delicious dining establishments in Hampton Roads. It was known for both its cuisine and its cozy atmosphere. After visiting their new location, however, I'm sad to report that barely any of the original charm remains. Hints of the once-famed cuisine might still be found if you look hard enough, but the food is overshadowed by the obnoxious atmosphere and amateur staff.
Luna Maya has always been popular. Every time I've visited, I've always expected to wait for a table. When I heard they were expanding, I felt excited for the owners and proud of their accomplishments in developing such a successful small business. But expanding a successful business is just as difficult as starting a brand new business, and it unfortunately feels like they've driven off the path with their latest moves.
When we first entered, we were immediately taken aback by the volume. The restaurant sounded like a sports bar during the Super Bowl. I'm not embellishing when I say that I could not understand what my associate was saying when she was standing next to me, shouting into my ear. The place sounds like everybody has something important to say and is yelling it at the top of their lungs simultaneously. My ears were ringing after we left, like we had just attended a rock concert.
The hostess/manager, Celia, informed us that the wait would be 30-40 minutes. My associate had been anticipating Luna Maya all day and was okay with the wait. After 60 minutes, and after noticing a few guests who came in after us being seated, we double-checked with the hostess to see if our name was still on the list. She assured us it was. After an hour and a half, and after seeing four more later-arriving parties seated before us, we approached the hostess desk again. At first, Celia refused to acknowledge us -- she looked up, saw us, then proceeded to continue on, writing notes, walking over to the bar, rearranging menus -- it felt like she was stalling. After a few minutes of our waiting there, Celia finally looked up at us, sighed, and rolled her eyes. She assured us that we were "next," despite immediately seating a 2-top and 3-top who had arrived just 10 minutes prior. Finally, just after the 2-hour mark, Celia ordered another staff member to seat us, without any kind of apology or concession. The 30-40 minute wait took a full 120 minutes. I read 3/4ths of a book on my iPad in the time it took to wait for a table at this restaurant.
At the previous, smaller Luna Maya, tables were positioned very close together. It was uncomfortable, but necessary. When they moved into the large, new location, however, I expected a more comfortable dining experience. Unfortunately, the seating is still as awkward as it used to be. Guests are placed at tables that are practically on top of one another. I was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the guy at the table next to us. We were so close together, I could have eaten off his plate without stretching. It's not a private dining experience -- but I guess that doesn't matter because the patrons and music are so loud that you can't hear anything anyway.
The food was pretty close to what I remember from the previous location, but any love that went into it was undermined by the ambiance. And that's a key issue -- when you visited the old Luna Maya restaurant, you felt like you were supporting a local business and helping local families continue to create incredible food out of love and passion. When you visit the new Luna Maya, you get the impression that the owners sold their stakes to the highest bidder who convinced them they could double their money by doubling the kitchen, doubling the amount of alcohol, and doubling the volume. The whole time I was there, I felt like someone was taking advantage of me and laughing their way to the bank.
The old Luna Maya used to be an intimate, refined, rewarding dining experience. But the new Luna Maya isn't even a restaurant anymore -- it's a garish, Colley Ave bar with a couple of tables to the side, where the owners can prey on the broken hearts of those of us who remember what Luna Maya used to stand for.
If you own or manage Luna Maya, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.