Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Diving in Head First to Max's Wine Dive Dallas

I was fortunate enough to score an invite to Max’s Wine Dive Dallas’ friends and family evening Tuesday, and from the looks of the bustling dining room and bar, Max has no shortage of friends or family.
While many soft-opening nights can have an air of chaos, Max’s hostess greeted us warmly and took us to one of their high top tables in the center of the room that gave us quite the view. We could see the kitchen working at a rapid pace to keep turning out delicious fried chicken, mac and cheese, fried brussel sprouts and more; patrons on the patio enjoying a glass of wine while their dogs had a bowl of water on a warm evening; and a restaurant full of happy people enjoying food and wine.
While I was a Max’s virgin, my friend is well-versed in the Max’s menu and recommended a number of menu items and wines that would work well. Who was I to argue? We started out with a glass of bubbly, of course. Max’s wine list is impressive, varied and wallet-friendly. Even better, you can peruse their wall of wine if you want to select something not on the list. Order two glasses, they’ll open the bottle. Buy a bottle while you’re there and one to take home and you’ll even get a discount. The folks at Max’s aren’t dummies and they’ve done their homework to make sure their prices are competitive, even with the discount retailers around town. While you won’t find any two-buck-Chuck here(thank goodness!) you can get a case of wine for only $99. That’s tough to beat, even at the big box stores down the road.
Also, while we’ve all seen enough small plates meant for sharing around town that aren’t shareable at all, Max’s gets it right with small plates that are actually designed to be shared, as well as prices that will let you order several to try out. For small plates, we stuck to the classic dishes found on the left side of the menu when we ordered the Max n’ Cheese and the Pan Borracho. The piquillo peppers were also highly recommended and the sliders looked great as they passed by. Classics can be found at all Max’s locations where the other side is populated with seasonal selections from the local chef.

The mac and the pan borracho arrived at our table piping hot. The creamy mac and cheese had been tossed with a truffle cream sauce that was complemented with gruyere and parmesan cheese. So many critics whine about truffle oil, but the reality is people love it. And really, if you’re looking to make really good mac and cheese into really great mac and cheese, why not just add truffle oil. They did and it’s fantastic. The pan borracho is one of those dishes that will easily make it on to the list of must-orders for every trip to Max’s. Sourdough baguette, prosciutto and thyme are baked in a white wine custard sauce with the aforementioned cheeses and the result is a drunken bread dish that I’m already craving again. Health food this is not, but it’ll be worth the extra run on the Katy Trail you’ll need to do in the morning.
For our entrĂ©e, we headed to the right side of the menu, which features creations from Chef Patrick Russell. The first thing you’ll notice on that side is the fried brussel sprouts. Order them. These are not those gross little cabbage looking things your mother made you eat. These are delightfully crispy magical sprouts that will have you fork sparring for the last one. Word on the street is that these are one of the few non-classics that may be able to jump across the menu and become classics. We also tried the lamb shoulder, which had been perfectly cooked and was literally fork tender as you cut through this normally tougher cut.
I wish I could remember the names of the delightful Pinot Noir and other wines we tried, but wine often has a funny mind-erasing effect. Not to worry, the knowledgeable staff and bartenders can certainly steer you in the right direction. Max’s team has literally scoured the globe to bring new and interesting wines to their customers. From trips to the Northwest to South Africa, I’m still trying to figure out how I can join that team.
For a kitchen’s virgin night, Max’s had no problem converting this virgin to a big fan of Max’s. The Sig-O has already decided we’ve got weekend plans to hit up their brunch, featuring red velvet pancakes, French toast, mimosas, man-mosas and more. See you there.