Max’s Wine Dive, the popular restaurant with the slogan “Fried Chicken and Champagne?…Why the Hell Not?!” just revamped their menu for Fall and Crave was at the media event to roll it out. From small plates to large, it looks like a winner.
Go to the section of the menu entitled “Chef Stefon’s Fall Menu” and start with PB&J Wings ($10), chicken wings in Max’s signature batter and slathered with thai peanut sauce and blackberry coulis (a variation on sweet and sour). But take plenty of napkins as this can be a messy dish as well.
Next, try one of the more unusual variations on the empanada to be found in the metroplex. Reuben Empanadas ($12). A conventional empanada crust is stuffed with Niman Ranch prime brisket, red cabbage kraut and a mornay sauce (to add that primal cheese and meat flavor combination much as it does in a cheeseburger or Tex-Mex). The appealing crust of these empanadas is crisp to the first bite but flakey thereafter.
Both of those dishes are described as small plates, although you could survive on them alone. The Fall Menu is not only the part of the menu with the new Fall dishes, it is also the part where executive chef Stefon Rishel gets to put his own creations rather than follow the corporate core list that is available in all Max’s locations (nine and growing). Rishel worked at the Pappas group for nine years, was execuchef at Brackets at the Hotel Palomar in Dallas, and the execuchef at Sisu Uptown Resort, so he knows how to cook sophisticated food.
The ‘Garden’ section of the menu features two salads from which we chose the Sourdough Panzanella ($12) which consisted of toasted local sourdough, dried cherries, baby kale, local feta cheese and smoked tomato vinaigrette. It was light and addictive with the crunchy bread, tart cherries and creamy feta flavors all working together in the mouth.
From the ‘Large Plates’ section we enjoyed the Bison Meatloaf ($24) which featured bacon wrapped around the bison meat, a bed of mashed potatoes and jalapeño-blueberry demi-glace. It is hearty, comfort-food fare for sure.
The other large plate that we tried was our favorite of the evening and is actually a re-entrant to the Fall menu by public demand. Pot Roast Times Ten ($27) is braised Niman Ranch beef cheek, sweet potato purée and red wine demi-glace. As well as the sweet and fruity flavor this dish had photogenic visual appeal by virtue of the ‘spiralized’ sweet potato that had been soaked in an ice bath to remove as much starch as possible then flash-fried. The long-cooked beef cheeks simply fell apart in the mouth yielding up their earthy, umami-rich flavors.
Sides of frites ($6), truffle chips ($6) and risotto ($8) can be added to any dish and foie gras ($12), diver scallops ($12) and gulf shrimp ($6) form a trio of dishes that can accompany any other dish on the menu. We were pleased to see that the helping of foie gras was a respectable size. So often, with ingredients this expensive, you are left searching for a magnifying glass so that you can see the food on your plate.
Now if you don’t want the Fall menu the classic menu is also available. The most popular item there is the Famous Southern Fried Chicken ($17) including sides.
Count on a wine bar to have over thirty wines by the glass from humble house white at $7.75 through to Château Montelena Chardonnay ($20). The same range extends to sparklers where Bellafina Prosecco is $9.75 and Mumm ‘Cordon Rouge’ Champagne is $19. There are over 120 wines available by the bottle ranging from $29 to $540 (Colgin IX Estate). Buy two glasses of anything on the list and the house will open a bottle for you. I plan to do that with the Colgin on my next visit. There is lots of choice under $50 and we settled on a red from southern France, the 2009 Château de Treviac ($49) from Corbiéres in the Languedoc Roussillon. Our waitress, Lauren, knew exactly how to serve this full-bodied red wine and the restaurant had stored it at the right temperature.
There are nine beers on the list with no fewer than three from Fort Worth (Martin House) and six in total from Texas. No national blah brands to be seen. It would be a simple but noteworthy step for Max’s to bring the same attention they lavish on local beer to the wine list, which only has two Texas wines.
One extra thing at the Fort Worth location: live music on Monday nights. And something at all locations of Max’s Wine Dive, the genius behind the concept is that they take the food seriously, but not themselves, so the atmosphere is casual and fun.