A firm

SIX MONTHS after the opening of the Philippines’ very own Max’s Restaurant in the Capital, the town is still buzzing with excitement about its popular cuisine.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

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Published: Sat 23 Feb 2013, 8:35 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:20 AM

Known for its signature crispy and tasty fried chicken, Max’s Abu Dhabi is the third franchise to open in the UAE. The Dubai branch opened in September 2011 and Sharjah two months later.

Having heard about the rave, I was naturally curious.

So I head over to the Corniche Apartments (formerly Hilton Residence) in Khalifa, where the new branch is located, to see if the praises are well-deserved. I brought along an international chef, who is well-acquainted with the Philippine restaurant, to prove if their dishes here are as authentic as they claimed to be.

Entering the foyer, we were greeted cheerfully by one of the staff, in keeping with the Filipino and Max’s tradition of hospitality.

We were surprised at the large space, which occupies an entire floor and comprises two dining halls, a family room for three, and three separate function halls that could accommodate between 40 to 60 guests in private gathering.

According to the manager, Ronald Reyes, the restaurant can serve up to 230 diners at one time.

It also has a large, fully-equipped and properly laid out kitchen that covers the full left wing.

We took notice of the minimalistic, yet nicely decorated dark walls. One side was a wallpaper showcasing the restaurant’s history and another adorning a large picture of the first Max’s restaurant in Quezon City.

Eager to sample the signature dishes, we ordered the all-time favourite fried chicken, bulalo (clear broth with tender beef osso bucco and vegetables), kare-kare (ox tail, tripe and vegetables in thick peanut sauce served with shrimp paste), sizzling sweet and spicy chicken, fresh lumpiang ubod (julienne of fresh coconut heart with chicken, shrimp and crab sticks wrapped in egg crepe and topped with nutty, garlicky sweet sauce), pancit canton (egg noodles topped with vegetables, chicken strips, chicken balls and shrimps) and partnered them with the crab meat fried rice and garlic rice. While waiting for our meals to be served, we were treated to a nice cool drink of sago’t gulaman and iced tea – well-liked Filipino beverages.

Ten minutes later, the mouth-watering aromatic platters started coming out; a very good record for such a busy establishment, especially on a weekend.

We were pleasantly suprised to find that the serving sizes were much bigger than what we were accustomed to having in Max’s home branches. The fried chicken was also a notch better, more crispy but tender and as usual, tasty.

“That is because the frying oil is a blend directly from the Philippines,” explained Reyes. He added that the spice mix for the chicken, which contains Max’s secret flavourings, was also brought out here from the motherland.

For the fresh lumpiang ubod, the coconut heart is flown fresh while the chilis used for some of the sizzling dishes are homegrown.

In fact, the native ingredients were not the only ones imported by the restaurant. Most of the kitchen staff, including the chefs, management and service crew were recruited directly from Max’s in Manila. All food handlers are certified by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.

According to Reyes, who himself is a Max’s long-serving employee before getting posted to open the first franchise in Dubai, a number of food tasting were done prior to opening the UAE branch in order to make sure that Max’s signature dishes are “the exact taste”.

Having savoured the offerings, I could definitely say that the objective was achieved, perhaps even better.

The bulalo has a very nice solid taste, not too salty, watery or cold. And the meat and vegetables were properly cooked too, soft but not soggy. Perhaps sensing our liking for soup, our server, Ariel Mojica, was quick to pour us some in a cup.

The sizzling sweet and spicy chicken teased my palate a bit but my companion said the chilli blend is very just right. The kare-kare was also superb. Its thick peanut sauce was a rich complement for the ox tail and tripe. And though not particulalry fond of these animal parts, or the shrimp paste, my co-diner couldn’t help another mouthful.

Having had our fill, we thought we would retire for the day happily. But Reyes convinced us to try Max’s fabulous deserts.

Looking through the colourful selection, we settled for the bite-size samples of ube cream panacotta, leche flan, buko pandan, cream cheese brownies and of course, the tropical halo-halo treat (mixture of fruits, leche flan, sweet beans and crushed ice, topped with ice cream).

We were in heaven.

Max’s Restaurant has truly redefined Filipino dining with their outstanding high-end fare.

“Max’s is more than just a food brand. It takes after the characteristics that are innate to Filipinos — hospitality, generosity and passion for good food,” Reyes stated. Characteristics that not only attract a large Filipino clientele, but also other nationals from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and Russia.

Max’s was founded in 1945 by Maximo Gimenez in Quezon City, Philippines. What started out as a roadside café serving American GIs (private soldier in the US army), has over the years transformed into a household name and an institution that is known as Max’s Restaurant – ‘The House That Fried Chicken Built’.

There are over 100 Max’s branches across the Philippines, 10 in the US and Canada and now three in the UAE with plans to expand further in the region.

Max’s is brought to the UAE by Foodmark, a division of Landmark Group – one of the largest retail and hospitality organisations in the Middle East and India.

The restaurant is open from 10am to midnight everyday serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also offers home delivery services. For reservations, call 02-6281234.


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