Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Restaurant Max in the new Hotel Minneapolis

My lawyer advised me it would be wise to do lunch again. The last time we got together for a lunch I ended up with some blog controversy and I pissed some people off. For those wondering, I never did go back to Porter & Frye for a more balanced review. I honestly can't afford it. I still haven't heard anything that compels me to return.

Patrick (lawyer and occasional brother in law) was kind of enough to suggest we visit the new Restaurant Max in the Hotel Minneapolis that opened up on 4th Street and 2nd Avenue a few months ago. We briefly discussed our propensity for controversy when dining at a new hotel restaurant, but decided it was worth the risk. Besides, this place hasn't garnered anywhere near the same amount of ink. Sounded relatively safe.

Matt decided to join us before heading out to his wetland soils class. When we arrived Patrick was dressed in a nice suit, I had the usual I-Work-At-An-Ad-Agency-So-You-Better-Think-I'm-Cool desperate attempt at garb and Matt was dressed like a lumberjack. Pat sang the opening few lines of this song as we waited for our table.

Just after we sat down, our cute bespectacled waitress appeared and squinted at Matt. He said, "Oh, hey! How are you? We were in drama class together."

"Oh, yeah! Yeah! How are you?"

"Great - I'm over at the U now."

"Ha! I'm just finishing up at MCTC... Gosh, what did you do your monologue on again?"

Matt did a monologue?

"Oh, I don't remember..." he chuckled. Chuckled. I've heard my share of chortles, guffaws and hoots, but not a lot of chuckles.

"Wow... yeah," she noticed the rest of us for the first time and asked for drink orders. I asked for the East of Oregon drink. She excused herself and walked away.

"You are here with your wife, you know," Pat reminded him. "Your pregnant wife?"

Matt was embarrassed and started doing this wild flailing of arms thing he does when he's nervous. I moved the water glasses away from the edge.

She returned with only the coffee and cream that Matt had requested. There was more flailing and some drivel about Tennessee Williams. I covered my mouth trying not to laugh. That lumberjack is one hot ticket.

Tiring of the drama scene, I set about deciding what to order while dodging the occasional nervous elbow that swung into my space. Eventually, my drink arrived.

Here is where I'd normally insert a picture, but not only did I forget the real camera at the office, but my stupid cell phone was in the pocket of the jacket I checked. You'll just have to trust me. It was a gorgeous cocktail. In a globe shaped low ball I was presented with a pink frothy delight of crushed raspberries, muddled sage, a dusting of cardamom and a splash of lime juice mixed with seltzer water. The whole thing was set off by a bunny eared garnish of sage leaves. It tasted like Christmas, mildly sweet, fruity, spicy and comforting. I never want to go without this drink again. I'd love to recreate it for all of my upcoming holiday celebrations.

For lunch I ordered the hot pastrami and Fontina sandwich with grilled Serrano pepper served with a side of truffled fries. Pat decided on the open faced braised pork while Matt struggled with his decision. "What's this Japanese egg and shrimp thing?"

"Only our best sandwich. You'll love it," she gushed. He agreed to ordered it.

While we were catching up I couldn't stop staring around the room. It really is beautiful. There are these huge, red Lily pad shaped light fixtures suspended from the existing marble columns. Additional fixtures with spider webbed silver metal that hung over the table tops. The room felt contemporary, ageless and warm at the same time.

My sandwich was soon before me, a steamy, spicy specimen. The meat had been cooked on the grill giving the fatty pieces a beautiful bacon like appearance. The smell wafting up from the plate was divine; salty, rich perfection. True to the menu, there was just one grilled Serrano, de-seeded and sliced laid in the middle of the sandwich. The gooey cheese laced the French bread and clung to fatty meat bits as I cut the large portion in half. The salty, sweet thin fries were dusted in a little dried parsley and adorable. They didn't have the crack-like appeal of the Bulldog truffled tots, but they were pretty good and eventually gone. The sandwich was everything I'd hoped. The pastrami was salty without drying out the mouth, the cheese was a nice foil to the assertive meat and the sweet, cabbage sauerkraut that lingered ever so lightly at the back of my throat. The sauerkraut was mild enough to tempt even those that profess to hate stinky pickled things yet distinctive enough to make a pregnant lady want to gorge herself on the stuff.

Matt's sandwich was amazing. The egg was square (because it's Japanese.) It had been whipped up and cooked into a pillowy custard texture and the entire thing was dressed with a light drizzle of mustard. I didn't get to try the shrimp (and I'm probably not supposed to eat them anyway) but he swore it was wonderful.

The three of us finished almost every bite of our entrees before ordering dessert. We selected the little shot glass tastes offered - reminiscent of the desserts offered by Bank. Each was nice, not too sickly sweet, but none knocked me out. I probably could have skipped it after horking down almost the whole sandwich. Thankfully, Matt helped before he had to sputter out his farewell to our lovely server.

Over all, I was impressed by the Max experience. It is owned by the same group that runs Pazzaluna and the St. Paul Hotel, so my low expectations could have been a little higher. It's a great spot for a client dinner and would be a nice option for a little happy hour. I guess not all restaurants in hotels are mediocre. Maybe I should try that Manny's place next.


At 8:38 PM , Anonymous Lawyer said...

It was quite tasty (and I clearly need to dress more like a lumberjack to attract the ladies).

At 1:47 PM , Anonymous Margaret said...

Or do a monologue


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