All year long, hungry Houstonians craving over-the-top gourmet comfort food know that they can find it at Max’s Wine Dive. From fried chicken and champagne to their infamous truffle-everything fried egg sandwich, time and again, the original spot on Washington delivers.
Such was the case earlier this week when we stopped in to sample executive chef Ana Amaya’s new “Throwback” fall menu. A compilation of comfort food classics with a few extra twists and bits of fancy, it was one of those menus that make you want to order a lot. Which is exactly what we did.
How about an order of lobster fondue to start? A cast iron cocotte filled with fondue, served with easy-to-share and easy-to-eat warm pretzel sticks arrived. Think: gooey, thick, queso-style cheese with generous chunks of lobster mixed in scooped up with a warm, pliant pretzel stick. Talk about delicious. And virtually impossible to stop eating.
The frisee salad was a heavier preparation than we would have liked. The portion was ample, and it came with candied bacon and a huge tuft of frisee (all good), but it also came on a bed of goat cheese which made the dish sort of heavy. I ate the tops of the frisee, a few bits of the candied bacon, and left the rest because the next dish, I knew, was going to be super decadent.
We’re talking roasted bone marrow, served with crostini, next to side of seared foie gras sitting atop a strawberry jam-smeared round of brioche-like bread. Super decadent, right? Never before have I had a pairing of bone marrow and foie gras — two ingredients that are each in and of themselves extremely rich — together on one plate. But I loved the extravagance of it all, not to mention the fact that the bone marrow was positively brimming with luscious, unctuous marrow.
Still to come were the entrees. Honestly, we would have been well served with just one entree after those appetizers, but hey, you only live once. We started with Chef Ana’s Famous Homemade Lasagna, which I’m told requires a one and a half day process to make. Composed of five alternating layers of house-made fresh pasta sheets, ground beef, alfredo and marinara, and served with garlic toast, the ample portion was topped with alfredo sauce that dripped down the sides for added effect. It was truly splendorous.
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We also ordered the fall vegetable pot pie, which came in a large oval ramekin with puff pastry crust, another belly-warming option for the fall.
The final entree we tried was a meatloaf stuffed with their macaroni and cheese. It was shapped into a big round oval and came with perfectly cooked green beans, and a generous helping of goat cheese mashed potatoes. At this point, we were at our upper limit, but the meatloaf still tasted incredible. It would have been more dramatic had there been more mac ’n cheese in the middle of it, but the combination of oozing, cheesy, soft macaroni and savory meatloaf was definitely a hit. For the full effect, ask to sub the mashed potatoes for a helping of the mac ’n cheese.
Did we have room for dessert? Not really. But this is what happens when you go to Max's Wine Dive on an empty stomach. You cannot help yourself. We finished our meal with a half and half order of what they call "big ass brownie" and their daily special raspberry bread pudding. We didn't even have to ask for it a la mode — it came that way.