One of my new foodie friends mentioned the recent opening of Max's restaurant outside of downtown Toronto a couple of weeks ago. I definitely remember the name from my early childhood in Manila. I knew they've been known for their fried chicken for as long as I can remember. It's been an institution since 1945. I knew I had to try it now that they had a Toronto location. It had been long enough since I had eaten it to forget how good it was. The conversation somehow lead into a plan for a field trip to try it out. I even asked my mom about this place. She told me that the reason the chicken at Max's is so good is due to the fact that those whole chickens are deep fried in – not vegetable oil or chicken fat – but pork fat. That's correct. Pork. Fat.
So last night we feasted after an hour long wait. It was so busy that people waiting to be seated were asked to wait in their cars due to fire code violations! Foodies present (aside from me): @PanCanCooks, @foodie411, @ortdavid, @spotlightcity, @benchamel, & Alex (the only other Filipino in the group). There were at least four cameras out documenting every dish as it arrived. Our table could barely accommodate the number of dishes we ordered.
I can't even begin to describe how delicious the chicken was – and it was fall-off-the-bone tender. The skin was not covered in batter but thin and crispy. Corny as it may sound, as soon as I tasted it, a rush came over me. This was a flavour I fondly remember from my childhood. It was amazing. It wasn't just me. As I recall, a few members of our party were rendered speechless after taking their first few bites. My apologies to the lovers of Korean Bon Chon chicken in New York, this chicken is just better. And I'm a fan of Bon Chon. In fact, the entire meal was really, really good – it exceeded my own expectations. The stand-outs for me were the chicken and the lechon (broiled pork belly). I also really liked the buko pandan dessert. Not pictured were lumpiang shanghai and sisig. I don't believe I have had a proper Filipino feast like this since my Purple Yam dinner in Brooklyn. And what a feast it was.
Indulgent meal. Great company. I will be back for more. If there's a Max's in your city, GO.
Max's legendary fried (whole) chicken
Lechon: broiled pork belly (crispy and amazing)
Kare-kare: oxtail/beef peanut stew (w/ shrimp paste as a condiment)
Sinigang: tamarind-based pork stew/soup
Chicken adobo: a sauce and marinade of vinegar, garlic, bay leaves etc, then browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade
left: Halo-halo is shaved ice topped with purple yam ice cream, leche flan, toasted rice, sweet red bean, coconut, jack fruit and evaporated milk; right: Buko Pandan dessert is young coconut and pandan ice cream, strips of coconut, toasted rice, pandan gelatin, pandan tapioca balls and coconut milk (YUM!)