Filipino food

max's restaurant

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!)

at home in ditmas park : purple yam restaurant


I had the rare treat of dining out on Filipino food this weekend. Unlike Korean or Malaysian food, for instance, Filipino food hasn't become mainstream (though it's only a matter of time). So when I have it, it's usually at home or with family.
I've been dying to try Purple Yam, a reincarnation of the now closed Cendrillion restaurant in SoHo. They opened in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn — out of the way, but I knew it would be worth it. I read about their tocino sliders a couple of weeks ago and could not get it out of my head. So our menu for the evening was as follows:
1) Tocino sliders (sugar-achuete cured pork) in purple yam pan de sal bread, served with pickled persimmon
2) The special dumplings – with shrimp and water chestnuts
3) Pomelo, green mango and jicama salad
4) Chicken adobo (braised in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and coconut milk)
5) Pancit bihon (Philippine rice noodles with chicken, pork and veggies)
1) Halo halo (Philippine iced dessert with sweet beans, palm seed, cocogel, coconut sport [macapuno], jackfruit, topped with flan and purple yam ice cream)
2) Champorrado with coffee ice cream (sweet rice in chocolate and cream)
My friends and I LOVED it – even more than the original. It was such a treat for me and the best meal I've had in a while. It's as tasty as home cooked meals but with an occasional innovative twist utilizing all the authentic ingredients. The staff was sweet, as was the owner and gracious host, Amy Besa. My favourites had to be the sliders (we had three orders of it), the adobo and the desserts. Their house made ice cream is to die for, especially the coffee one. Purple Yam is so worth the trip out. Think of it as a mini-field trip, it's only a few stops past Park Slope on the Q train. Their back patio area surrounded by bamboo looks really lovely too. I'll definitely be back.
Loved the lighting sculpture at the front of the restaurant