Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dinner at Max London's

I don't often get to Saratoga, which is unfortunate because there are some places there that I definitely enjoy.  There are also a number of joints which I've been wanting to try;  places like Sperry's, Maestro's, and Max London's.  Friday night I finally got to Max London's - with basically good results.  I wasn't blown away by Max's food to the same extent that Mrs. London's almond croissants leave me begging for more, but, generally I was pleased with the food despite finding  the service lacking at times, and the music with the heavy Euro-techno beat more than a little annoying.
chickpea polenta fries
Speaking of annoying, nothing starts a dining experience more than the initial greeting.  When my party of two arrived the hostess was away from her post, which is fine and  understandable.  What is less than acceptable is that there were 2 folks working behind the nearby bar who refused to make eye contact with us.  That really bothers me...  I'm not asking for someone to immediately seat me, but I really do expect to be acknowledged by someone when I enter a business.  Mini rant over.

We were escorted to a table in a dining room occupied by 3 or 4 tables.  After the water sale service, which is somehow less irritating in a town renowned for its water, we took a look at the menu and made our choices: an order of chickpea polenta fries, a house salad, the clam pizza and the house meat ragu.  They serve their wine (like Otto) in quartos and we started with an Albarino with our first course, moving to a grenache/syrah (I think) with our second course.  The food came out in a reasonable time frame and was the appropriate temperature with the courses being well paced.  The server was occasionally attentive, but more often than not absent - not a real issue until we were ready to go and she was nowhere to be found.  I understand that when things are less than busy it is easy for servers to get sidetracked with their own conversations and perhaps, sidework, but a walk through the dining room on a regular basis is never a bad idea.   Just saying.

house salad
I'd never had polenta fries and thought they were delicious - wicked hot when they were served and beautifully browned and crunchy on the outside with a tender interior.  The salad was also nicely executed, fresh with a generous amount of cheese and walnuts - no real complaints other than an unrealistic wish for more dates. Dates, like the fruit - just to be clear.  I didn't snap a picture of the pasta dish because I was beginning to be self conscious of the flash on my crackberry.  Suffice to say, it was a very solid entree - rich in meaty flavor, not over-sauced and a fair portion.  The pizza was very, very good, almost reminiscent of the pizza I had last week in NYC.  The clams were not chewy, which had been a mild concern when we placed the order, and the saltiness of the pancetta was a great accompaniant to the mild sweetness of the clams.  The crust had those lovely bubbles we all dream about (am I having those pizza dreams alone?) and still tasted damned good hours later - cold.  

pizza with clams and pancetta

So, what's my verdict on Max London's? Quality food made from quality ingredients, at a somewhat premium price (we spent $100 with tax and tip), for sure. With a bit more hospitality in terms of service and vibe, I'd be game for a return visit. Until that day comes, though, does anyone have a recipe for chickpea polenta fries that they'd be willing to share?


  1. They have a GREAT brunch at Max London's. HIGHLY recommended.
    Also, Capital Q has cheddar and jalepeno grits fries that might help provide your polenta fries fix! They are really good... hot and crispy, even with delivery!

  2. Yum, I want to try chickpea polenta fries too!

  3. I love Max London's though I agree with you on the service. We actually got really pissed off at the hostess a few weeks ago when we showed up and were told we couldn't be seated. This despite the fact that reservations are not accepted and there were 2 open 4 tops (which are really just tables for 2 that are pushed together.) If you don't take reservations, it should be first come, first served. And we do go fairly often.

    Tuesday night is a great night to go as they have a 3 course special for $20. App or salad, any pasta or pizza and dessert or cheese.