Max’s Bistro – As seen in Fresno Magazine
February 10, 2009
Max’s Bistro has become quite the Fresno staple. Whatever your fancy — be it fresh baked bread, premium wine or the latest in French-inspired California Cuisine — Max’s is sure to satisfy your every whim. With their ever-changing menu and ongoing art exhibition, Max’s Bistro reinvents itself time and time again, all the while never losing its charming accoutrements we have all become so fond of.
Right when you walk through the door, you feel the energy of this chic posh bistro. Max’s exudes a joie de vivre that is as addictive as the food. Brightly colored frescos, featuring original works of art by local artist Tomas Panzarino, dress the walls, creating a warm and inviting ambiance unrivaled in the city. Panzarino’s trademarked use of zinc and polychrome (metal and multiple color), as well as his flowing brushstrokes, create a vibrant backdrop for your dining affair. White tablecloth service meets casual chic at Max’s, making it the perfect retreat for your anniversary dinner, business lunch or Saturday catch-up with the girls.
Penny, Pam, Peggy, Melanie and I were excited to welcome our guests, as we knew we were in for quite a treat. Joining us weretoday was LaRee Hunting, Jane Carruth, Terri Soares and Brandi Muro. We were escorted to our table and immediately greeted with a Blueberry Euphoria Martini aperitif to warm up our palates for the day’s treats. General Manager J.J. Wettstead welcomed us by going over the lunch menu we would be enjoying and the crowd immediately rippled with delight. He also introduced us to Dylan, our amiable server, who was brave enough to handle a table full of lively women!
To begin, we tasted the Thai Coconut Prawns with Mango Coulis and Thai dipping sauces. The textures of the succulent prawn, crispy coconut and sweet sauce all worked together marvelously.
Also from the appetizer list were Crab Cakes with house-made tartar sauce, which were nice and crispy and not at all on the heavy side. What came next was one of the days’ favorites: Seared Scallops with celery root, Granny Smith apples and a lemon emulsion. LaRee was right on when she commented on the perfect marriage between the fresh taste of the scallops and the richness of the sauce. It was cooked perfectly.
To our surprise, Max’s presented something extra special for us today (and I’m not talking about the darling personal menus they had designed for us!). They took the liberty of pairing one of their exquisite wines with each course of our lunch. With the seafood appetizers, we sampled the Michel Redde, 2005 Sancerre from France. Pam noted the “crispness” of the wine and how well it brought out the flavor of the appetizers.
Next, we tried some of Max’s famed salads. First up was the Caramelized Apple & Grilled Chicken Breast Salad. Sprinkled with sugared walnuts, apple cider vinaigrette and Fourme De Ambert blue cheese over mixed greens, this salad offered a wonderful medley of textures with each bite. The Strawberry & Spinach Salad featured ripe strawberries and baby spinach with feta cheese tossed with the bistro’s house-made poppy seed dressing. Jane especially enjoyed the fact that the strawberries are fresh from Fresno’s own farms. Lastly, we enjoyed the Chinese Chicken Salad, which boasted pulled chicken atop baby greens, crispy noodles, red cabbage, roasted peanuts and Asian dressing. Brandi appreciated that the chicken was shredded, adding a new texture and keeping it simple to eat. Served with Caposaldo, a light 2006 Pinot Grigio from Italy, these salads would all make great starters or meals on their own.
And now, for the piece de resistance… The Max Burger. With a generously portioned grilled patty topped with sharp cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, dijon mayo, lettuce, tomato and grilled red onions, this may SEEM like an ordinary burger, but ordinary it is not! Everything about this burger works in its favor, from the perfectly browned house-baked seeded bun to the perfect amount of gooey cheese. It’s no wonder this burger has been dubbed by the Terri as “the best burger in town”. In a way that only food can, this burger whisked us back to our carefree days of childhood, but with a grownup spin. And it gets better! The Max Burger is accompanied with Max’s renowned sweet potato fries, served with a side of jalapeno arugula aioli. This one menu item is enough to draw people in. The Cain Cuvee NV5 Napa Valley Bordeaux was the perfect complement to the burger –– it didn’t compete with the flavor of the burger, just enhanced it.
Max’s offers a daily fish special, and the one we sampled today was the Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut, served with potato cake, spinach and citrus verjus coulis. The fish was perfectly succulent and each of the plated flavors worked beautifully with one another. Head Chef Scott Sauer certainly knows what he’s doing!
The MacCrostie 2006 Carneros Chardonnay was my favorite wine of the day. With a combination of tropical fruit, coupled with pear and peach flavors, the wine is superbly smooth.
Our exquisite lunch was perfected with the Gingered Strawberry Shortcake and Molten Lava Cake. I’m sure it won’t take much convincing when I tell you these were some heavenly morsels. One glide of the fork into the Lava Cake and out oozed a glorious hot fudge filling. Paired with wholesome vanilla ice cream, this dessert leaves you wanting nothing more. Well… except for maybe one more sip of the Zardetto, Prosecco Brut from Italy — for those who prefer their dessert in a glass!
Max’s seems to have perfected the upscale food with a laidback atmosphere bit. When you want fine dining without the hoity toity hassle, look no further than Max’s Bistro. With such attention to detail, like hand-polished glasses to fresh, seasonal menus and genuine customer service, where else would you go? Bon appetit!