Saturday, January 29, 2011

Max Brenner

For the last night of restaurant week we braved the sloppy streets and used up a gift card we'd been sitting on for over a year at Max Brenner.  I hadn't heard much of this place, and frankly don't know anyone else that's even been there so expectations were nil. Located on 15th street between Walnut & Locust they seem to be trying to cater to the pre and post theatre crowd.  Max Brenner is actually a chocolate themed chain with locations in Vegas, NY, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore & Israel.  Why they chose Philadelphia for an outpost seems a bit strange.  How bad can a chocolate themed restaurant be though?

When you walk in you are confronted by a massive display of house made chocolates and branded merchandise for sale, along with a free sample of chocolate covered pralines.  That was a nice start.  We were ten minutes early, which usually means you are ushered over to the bar for a drink.  Instead, the barely legal looking hostesses told us to wait in the merchandise area, with no one bothering to check our coats.  The interior is dark and meant to be romantic, with red christmas lights strung from ceiling rafters, candles and table top smores adding to the valentines day feel of the place.  We didn't have much better luck with our server, who didn't bother to ask what kind of vodka we wanted in our martini's (god only knows what they put in there), forgot to bring silverware with the entrees, and left us hanging for a second drink.  One of her fellow servers luckily stepped in and got things resolved.

The food itself was underwhelming.  Started off with a caesar salad that had chunks of avocado, tomato and a dressing infused with some spicy mexican chili that would have been really nice if had not been a 50/50 ratio of salad to dressing.  You could have done 21st birthdy shots with what was left over.  She got the corn croquettes that were basically little fritters, battered in panko breadcrumbs and flash fried.  They were prepared well, but lacked any serious depth of flavor.

Entrees were a NY strip for me that was cooked to medium rare as I asked, but the actual cut of meat was nothing better than you could have gotten at SuperFresh.  Served with roasted potatoes and the same corn croquettes we had for an appetizer, it's a pretty unimaginative dish for restaurant week.  She went with the black sesame salmon that was probably the best of the bunch.  Cooked well, and served with a wasabi aoli that was tasty but packed too little punch.  

Desert time came around, which should be the main event at a chocolate restaurant.  The restaurant week menu featured two options, the peanut butter chocolate crepe & the chocolate fondue.  The crepe was ok, but the portion was huge and overloaded with so much peanut butter that you needed several gulps of water after every bite just to swallow.  The fondue setup looked to be an event by itself.  One bowl of marshmallows, brownies & thick chocolate chip cookies and another of strawberries and bananas for dipping in two different chocolates and a caramel sauce sitting atop a little candle that looked like a potpourri at my mom's house.  Along with this they also give you a little sterno roaster for the marshmallows to make smores, minus the graham crackers.  As great as the setup was, the chocolates weren't very good.  The dark chocolate wasn't bitter enough, and the milk chocolate was almost runny.

No pictures in this posting.  Partly because it was so dark in the room that nothing would come out, but also because there wasn't much worthy of the camera.

I might come back to try some different desserts another time, but I'd give the food a pass.  Not quite a miscarriage, but definitely no babies on the Food Baby rating scale for Max Brenner.


Max Brenner
1500 Walnut St. (15th St. between Walnut and Locust)
Hours of Operation:
Mon – Thurs - 11:30am – 11:00pm
Fri - 11:30am – 1:00am
Sat - 11:00am - 1:00am (brunch is served from 11:00am - 4:00pm)
Sun - 9:00am – 11:00pm (brunch is served from 9:00am - 4:00pm)

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