Houston Restaurant Weeks Dinner at Max's Wine Dive

"Too good to be true" was my first thought when I heard that Max's Wine Dive was one of the few Houston restaurants offering four courses rather than three for its Restaurant Weeks dinner menu. I assumed Max's was favoring variety over serving quantity and that portion sizes would be considerably -- probably annoyingly -- scaled down.

Yes, the portions were scaled down. But not annoyingly so.

My first course of Nacho Mama's Oysters wasn't the half-dozen one receives in the regular small portion but rather three bivalves atop fried wontons dotted with garlic aioli and fresh cilantro. Given the more than respectable size of the oysters, the wonderful grittiness of the cornmeal batter, and the piquant sauce, I didn't much care I was eating three instead of nine.

I was happy to have chosen the watermelon salad for my second course. The fresh arugula, crunchy, slightly acidic red onions and vibrant watermelon "croutons" were a welcome follow-up to the saltier fried oysters. A light dusting of feta balanced the citrus vinaigrette, and since the entire dish was just under a cup serving, I was satisfied rather than stopped in my (digestive) tracks (tracts?) by fibrous roughage.

While Max's might have scaled down its servings for the first and second courses, there's no question that my third (main) course, the grilled cheese sandwich, appeared in its full-grown glory. And since I've enjoyed this dish more often than I care to admit, I can attest to its consistently large size with some authority.

For the first time, however, I added a fried egg ($1) to see what happens when buttered Texas toast meets sumptuous yolk. (The answer: brinner nirvana.) My only criticism of this dish was and continues to be the disproportionate amount of tomato soup that accompanies the sandwich. Come on, Max's, you can't possibly think a quarter cup is sufficient dipping liquid for this mammoth sandwich?

There is no photo of my fourth course, the "apple pie in a glass," because I inhaled it quicker than the flash on my camera could pop up. More creamy vanilla ice cream than apple pie, this dessert was nonetheless a terrific coda to a meal fairly dominated by dairy.

Is Max's Restaurant Weeks menu too good to be true?

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Joanna O'Leary