Food and Leisure

Not just chocolate at Max Brenner’s

- Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao -

The cult of chocolate lovers is diverse. While some say that they would prefer their chocolate to be pristine — strong, dark, bitter and undefiled by the incorporation of other constituents — others are of the opinion that adding various components to chocolate adds to the pleasure of eating it. By adding nuts, fruits, wines and other ingredients, distinct aromas, flavors and textures add zing to the chocolate confections. Still, there are those who go one step further and incorporate the chocolate with the main course. Their palates are so well attuned to chocolate and they can distinguish its individual flavor despite the slew of herbs, spices and seasonings of regular food.

While each is entitled to his particular preferences, I belong to the faction that believes that chocolate is special on its own and needs no extreme embellishment. Depending on my food mood, however, I may relish it dark, potent and bitter; or more insouciant with the addition of a variety of fruits and nuts. At Max Brenner, home of the most wickedly delightful chocolate confections, I always succumb to the lure of chocolate fondue where you dip morsels of assorted fruits and marshmallows in molten chocolate. I suspect that other than the fact that creating one’s own chocolate dessert is a rather enjoyable activity, the tea-light fire used to melt the chocolate is one attraction of the dish. It is a throwback to when we were children and warned not to trifle with matches or fire. Fondue cooking is a means of satisfying pyromaniac fascinations.

It would have been a simple matter to fall under the temptation of chocolate again, but we were at Max Brenner to try new items on the menu. ”Not just chocolate,” says the menu, and chef Lou Jurilla, formerly of Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Atlanta Marriot Marquis and Huntley Hotel in Sta. Monica, California, was there to guide us through the menu.

We started with a warm potato and bacon salad (P198) with sliced potatoes and bacon tossed with green onions, roasted garlic aioli and parsley oil. It was simple and reminiscent of what is usually made at home, with no overwhelming flavors to sate your appetite and possibly suspend further exploration of other items in the new menu.

The Peking duck club sandwich served with crispy fried vermicelli and dipping sauce (P298) was an interesting take on Peking duck. Strips of duck skin and meat were combined with julienne cucumber, green onion and cilantro, and served as a sandwich; while the star anise and ginger braised half chicken (P228) was redolent with the aromas and flavors of Asian cooking. Fittingly, this was served on a bed of steamed sesame rice and steamed vegetables. Other items listed under the Asian selection included nasi goreng (P258), Thai beef salad (P228) and Saigon spring rolls (P200) with fresh julienned vegetables, blanched shrimps rolled with sweet tamarind chili paste, crushed peanuts, and perked up with mint.

Grilled chicken with tomato and vodka cream sauce with fettucine (P320) was rendered more flavorful with the addition of fresh basil, chili flakes, while meat eaters might prefer the barbecued honey-glazed baby back ribs that are served with cinnamon-dusted sweet potato fries and grilled green chili aioli. Apple-glazed pork chops, (P380) grilled and glazed with apple and cinnamon raisin sauce and served with spiced sautéed apples, come with a sweet potato mash, a lighter and pleasant version reminiscent of American Southern cuisine’s sweet potato pie.

The burgers: gorgonzola and caramelized onion, mushroom beef, BBQ chili, and pepper and garlic crusted continue to be diners’ favorite items, says chef Lou, and a group may opt to try all by ordering the Mini Max (P425), which is a sampler of all four. Chocolate fanciers might be challenged to try Max Brenner’s Caesar’s twist salad, and try to distinguish the white chocolate shavings incorporated into the dressing.

It is a good thing that Max Brenner serves not just chocolate. This gives a chance for chocolate fanatics and people who prefer “normal” food to share mealtimes together. Personally, however, stultifying my taste buds with chocolate is actually an attractive proposition in lieu of a “regular” meal.

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Max Brenner Chocolate bar is at the ground floor, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City, with tel. 728-8801; and Level 4 (Cinema Level), TriNoma Mall, Quezon City, with tel. 901-8183.








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