Max's Harvest, Delray Beach (Fl) Restaurant Review
I like Delray. In Toronto terms, it's like if the Danforth and Yorkville had a love child and they moved down South. It's family friendly, but upscale, and always packed and hoppin'. In other words, it's a refreshing change from the super quiet Palm Beach we make the trek from. And you all know me, I will always make a trek if it means a good night out. So after an exciting Saturday evening with dinner at 32 East, we ventured back out to Delray for a second night in a row for dinner at Max's Harvest. Now, unlike 32E, we have never been to Max's but I had read quite a bit about it during my pre-visit research session.
Owned by successful restaurateur Dennis Max, and run by Executive chef Chris Miracolo, MH focuses on bringing Floridians locally produced, sustainable and delicious ingredients, prepared simply and presented beautifully. On their website (and on their daily-changing menu), MH offers a list of their local suppliers- and while you see that often in TO, that was a first for me for PB.
Tucked away on a side street, far enough from the bustling crowds, MH is actually a relatively large place. It features an open-kitchen style main dining room, a sprawling bar, a smaller dining room behind the kitchen, and two patios (one in front, and one in the back). The main dining room itself is modern, clean and spacious. With the exception of the piercingly bright light radiating from the kitchen, the place is lit dimly, but in a non-pretentious manner that feels more cozy than club. Our visit landed on a Sunday, so we had a good selection of dining options, and chose to sit in the front patio. Hey, gotta squeeze out every last moment of this gorgeous Florida patio weather!
We were promptly greeted by our adorable young server, who knew every detail from the menu, and made appropriate recommendations for a suitable wine. Timing was perfect (in and out in 1 1/2 hours), execution was flawless (cutlery and plates were consistently replenished), and the attitude from all of the staff members was casual, professional and friendly. This is the kind of experience PB needs more of.
The drink selection is vast and tempting. There were several cocktails on the menu that sounded in line with my palate but I opted for the Blackberry Bramble (Pea and Vanilla Xante, Muddled Blackberries, Lemonade, Tahitian Vanilla Rum, Opal Basil Garnish), while he went for a dry white wine recommended by our server. The wine was spot on, but the Bramble was a bit one-note. It was floral, but lacked any other discernible flavours, and I found myself looking for a little more acidity or even some sweetness to balance everything out. A drinkable, but not a great cocktail.
Food wise, we both decided to go with the 3 course option pre-fix, which allowed us to select an appetizer, main course and dessert from their full menu for $49. We were told that the portions of the appetizer and dessert would be made a little bit smaller than usual to accommodate the price, but we figured it would still be enough food. And boy, if these were the small portions, I don't know a soul who could get through the a la carte versions! Whether or not my belly could handle it, I was just happy they weren't stingy, because the food was truly delicious. We had:
House Made Carrot Zucchini Bread with House Churned Butter
Delicious. It was definitely a good call for them not to give us any more of this stuff, because I easily could have plowed through a whole loaf before my first course even arrived.
Heritage Pork Belly- Corned Pork, Swiss Cheese, Red Cabbage Remoulade, 1000 Island, Rye Croutons
Addictive. I was concerned about the prospects of melting swiss cheese on top of an already fatty pork belly, but it was just enough richness. The pork belly was some of the crispiest I have ever had, with absolutely no residual fat or grease. All of the other ingredients were appropriate and tasty- the brightness of the red cabbage, the bite from the 1000 Island dressing, and that tiny little crouton offered the much needed crunch factor. Yum!
Sizzled Spanish Octopus- Gigande Beans, Caperberry, Roasted Pepper, Tomato, Olive, Onion, Celery, Salsa Verde, Red Sorrel
The octopus was seasoned nicely, but in some spots a touch overcooked. Regardless, the accompaniments were gorgeous- the beans were perfectly al dente, and there was a nice balance of briny, salty and heat from all of the veg and salsa.
Pan Seared Local Mahi- Edamame, Watermelon Radish, Shitake, Baby Bok Choy, Eggplant, Yuzu-Truffle Vinaigrette
The Mahi was incredibly moist inside and crispy on the outside. I was definitely unsure of how the Yuzu and truffle were going to work together, but somehow, through temperance no doubt, it worked. The yuzu brought a beautiful citrus sweetness and acidity to the bed of veg, and the tiny hint of truffle (which is way too often overdone) added a delicate element of earthiness. Healthy and satisfying.
Porcini Dusted Diver Scallops- Butternut Squash Risotto, Duck Confit, Mushroom, Sweet Peas, Heirloom Apple Vinaigrette
While I typically can finish most of my main course at "fine dining" restaurants (because they typically serve moderate portions), this was just not going to happen. It's too bad though because it was incredibly well done. The risotto was creamy, and hearty with a mild hit of sweetness from the butternut squash. I loved the supple pop of the peas, and the generous portion of rich duck, and the bright and tangy vinaigrette. While two would have been more than enough, the scallops were likely some of the best I've ever had. They were beautifully caramelized and crispy on the outside, and meltingly tender on the inside. Too many restaurants mess these up, but MH definitely nailed it.
Banana Bread with Caramelized Banana and Banana Rum Sauce
This was good but not great. The bread was a little tough, and the bananas were a little bit too bitter from the char for me. The sauce, however, was mildly sweet, with a natural banana flavour and a creamy consistency.
Beignets with Creme Anglaise and Blueberry Preserves
Unreal. These were some of the best doughnuts I think I've ever tasted. They were wickedly warm, impossibly pillowy on the inside, and that sugar made for a crispy, crunchy texture between my teeth. I also loved that I got both a pot of creamy rich anglaise and tangy sweet preserves so I could go back and forth in my dunking. If Tim Hortons was selling stuff like this, I probably would never leave.
So, for 2 bottles of sparkling water, 2 3-course dinners, and 1 glass of wine the bill was $145 (yes, I had a cocktail too, but she removed it from the bill after she accidentally forgot to add any alcohol to the bill, we pointed it out, and she updated it with just one of the two drinks. Very thoughtful!). A much more innovative and delicious supper with far superior service than our previous evening at 32E, with much better bang for your buck. I will definitely be throwing MH into our annual Florida restaurant rotation and look forward to another beautiful winter's night on the patio in 2014.