Affordable and hearty Filipino fare can be had at Max's Restaurant.
Max's - a Filipino institution in Abu Dhabi
Hidden away among a maze of buildings behind the Corniche, on a mezzanine floor of a nondescript tower block, lies Max’s Restaurant.
For the unaware, this chain of diners is something of an institution back in the Philippines.
The firm can trace its roots back to just after the Second Word War, when a chap named Maximo Gimenez regularly served fried chicken to US troops stationed near his home in Quezon City.
From this, a restaurant business bloomed which, over time, has grown to become the most favoured, mid-range dining option for natives of the Asian country.
Think of a TGI Friday’s, an Applebee’s or a Fuddruckers, that serves Filipino-tinged dishes and fried chicken rather than upmarket burgers. Such has been its success that the chain has proliferated as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia and Dubai.
Abu Dhabi is the latest location for Max’s to open and, despite its somewhat unfathomable location, it was packed with many merry diners on our visit.
A quick glance around the restaurant at my fellow diners’ plates suggested that Max’s fried chicken is the main draw here. The business even markets itself as “the house that fried chicken built”. So of course, fried chicken is prevalent on the menu, but there’s also a selection of classic Filipino food, such as kare-kare, pancit and sisig to choose from.
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We opted for another indigenous dish for our starter – a fresh lumpiang ubod. This consisted of an egg roll packed with crabmeat and salad and doused in a tangy gravy. While the filling was pleasant enough, we were somewhat underwhelmed by the stodginess of the roll itself.
Unable to resist the lure of the chicken, we chose a platter of the meat. Deep-fried to utter crispiness, but still juicy within, the slabs of chicken were a treat to consume. Those suffering from dangerously high cholesterol levels, however, should check their life insurance is up to date before tucking in.
My dining companion was more adventurous and opted for the kare-kare, a spicy casserole served in a cooking pot.
Although the peanut sauce and the aubergine within were delicious, the fact that its main ingredient is sheep’s stomach meant we passed on the opportunity for more than one mouthful.
Should offal not appeal to your tastes, there is an ample choice of seafoods. We went for the fried boneless bangus, or milkfish, if you prefer.
Again, it’s not one for skinny latte-loving dieters, but the ultra-crispy fish was a fantastic piece of seafood.
As for desserts, we decided to share some halo halo – a hotchpotch of such ingredients as ice cream, tinned fruits, shaved ice and condensed milk – between us.
We were left wondering, however, why this particular version had cheese gratings sprinkled onto it. It was an unexpected, if not totally unpalatable, way to round off the meal.
That said, one could not fault the impeccable service. Staff were friendly, informative and helpful, better than servers who have waited on us in apparently five-star, fine-dining establishments.
While the food at Max’s may have been hit and miss, at least it’s affordable and hearty. There’s a good possibility that it could attract a crowd that extends beyond Filipino nationals. If it can find the location first, that is.
A meal for two, including soft drinks, at Max’s Restaurant, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh165. For reservations, call 02 628 1237. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito
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