Posted by Tegan O'Neill
If Max London's were personified, it would be a confident and experienced businessman. The establishment is aware of its polished reputation and thus leaves no small detail ignored. The dining room is dressed to impress in golden brown; varying shades of pizza dough and pasta, butterscotch and coffee give subdued warmth to the space. The room is furnished with copper and wood and a mirror runs the entire length of one wall. The look blends the modern with the vintage rather seamlessly.
Whereas in the business world, a firm handshake sets the meeting off on a strong note, in the realm of dining out, it's the bread before the meal which sets the tone for courses to come. If dining establishments are going to set bread on the table, it better be good. It should not go overlooked that Max London's nails this first impression, with the help of Mrs. London's next door. Freshly baked, both of the breads (one Italian, the other a French baguette) were both crusty and chewy and possessed the vaguely earthy flavor that is the mark of dependable bread.
And so one is prepared for an equally delectable meal. The menu follows a minimalist approach in that each dish highlights just a few simple ingredients, but the result is sophisticated and polished. Ingredients are not disguised behind masks of other ingredients and thus quality and careful preparation are ensured.
In lieu of ordering from the selection of bigger pasta and meat plates, we opted for ordering three appetizers plus one of "The Pizzas," the rationale being that the appetizers offered more creative, mouthwatering pizzazz. Put simply, the word on the street is that the pizzas are standout.
For a divine experience, bite slowly into the Piggy Back Dates (Serrano ham, walnuts, and goat cheese). The intensity of flavor and complexity of tastes is surely meant to be savored. Taste the sweetness of date, then honey, then maple. Then let those sensations give way to the saltiness of ham and lastly, the slight bitterness of walnut.
The Peach and Prosciutto (peach, prosciutto, and aged balsamic) looked spectacular on the plate but, disappointingly, its taste and texture proved to be less sensational. The taste of prosciutto was lost on the juiciness of the peach and the texture mix of thinly sliced meat and fleshy fruit was not particularly pleasant. The aged balsamic, though, was intensely full-flavored and quite nearly good enough to redeem the plate as a whole.
The Garlic Shrimp (rock shrimp, olive oil, garlic and smoked paprika) offered a robust bite of smoky flavor considering its rather unassuming amalgam of ingredients. It was an appetizer reminiscent of Cajun cooking and thus a refreshing change of pace from the more Italian-influenced menu.
The BLT pizza (bacon, leeks, roasted cherry tomatoes + Coach Farm goat cheese) was served to our table still steaming from the oven. The smell wafting upwards was positively tantalizing. At first glance, the ratio of crust to toppings seemed off, but we soon came to understand that it was a wise decision to load the pizza sparingly with bacon, leeks, and goat cheese. Otherwise, the combination would be too heavy to handle. With the help of tomato to balance out the pizza, each bite was luxuriously and satisfyingly rich.
Max London's is the type of place where you feel obliged to finish out the meal with something sweet, dessert being the proverbial icing on the cake for such a well-put together evening. The Butterscotch Budino (dark chocolate, butterscotch pudding, soft caramel, fluer de sel, and whipped cream) sounded excellent but proves to be too sweet and at the same time not too flavorful. However, the Chocolate Maximus, (creamy flourless chocolate cake) warms the soul in its smoothness and richness. The dollop of vanilla ice cream on top provides the perfect contrast to the mousse-like chocolate of the cake. Finally coffee served in a french press proved to be a delightful coda to the meal.
The prices at Max London's require a bit of a splurge but by ordering a few appetizers and a pizza the bill is fairly reasonable. Appetizer prices hover in the $6 to $9 range and most of the pizzas are $14.
From beginning to end, the Max London's experience is suave; service is pleasant and respectful, the atmosphere is clean and refined, and the food is delightful and satisfying. The restaurant accepts the challenge of high expectations and does not disappoint.
Read more of Tegan O'Neill's outings at her blog.