The popular birthday destination falls short of true culinary skill.
The casual ambience combined with the air of decadent elegance is the warm greeting one receives as soon as they step foot into Max Brenner, a restaurant that emphasizes their dedication to everything-chocolate from the menu, the presentation, and right down to the chocolate-toned furniture lining every wall of the room. Max Brenner is almost like the town-Olive Garden; in each small town, the fanciest restaurant one can go for birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries is Olive Garden (believe me, I resided in a small town for high school and went to Olive Garden for my graduation). Max Brenner is to Boston what Olive Garden is to every small, Pennsylvania town. But at least the quality is better.
I started my course with an entree (forgive me, I had no patience for an appetizer), the “Grandma’s Pizza,” which, from the title may have sounded a tad more extravagant than what I received on the plate; it was simply a margherita pizza, with rounded, heavy-cut slices of mozzarella, measurably spread tomato sauce, a thin crust, and a single basil leaf on each mozzarella slice. The presentation was mediocre at best, and the taste wasn’t too mind-blowing. “Grandma’s Pizza” tasted like a simple margherita pizza. I don’t quite remember the taste, but I do recall that it wasn’t particularly terrible. The basil leaves were course, the crust was too rough in some places, and the sauce tasted like what you would find at a grocery store. It was appetizing enough to be edible, but I certainly won’t travel to Max Brenner all the way from Dorchester for “Grandma’s Pizza” that definitely didn’t taste sophisticated enough for a grandmother to have made it.
I went straight to dessert after the mediocre entree. My dessert was aptly named “Max’s Famous Chocolate Mess Party For Two,” and my, oh my, was it a mess indeed. Chocolate cake that was entirely too spongy lay beneath heavy dollops of vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberries and bananas, mounds of whipped cream, splatterings of sprinkles, and hot fudge that all haphazardly rested on the dish. The presentation may not have been much to go home about, but it tasted good enough. It was a culmination of sugar, a f*ck you to the calorie-counting diet, and perhaps, because it seemed like such a sinful indulgence, was surprisingly very tasty. The strawberries were slightly sour, which clashed with the sweet tangy feel of the vanilla ice cream, but other than that, the dish tasted quite good. My real critique however, lies in the small cup of chocolate rice cereal that rested next to the main dish; it seemed unnecessary and was clearly an element of the dish that was more for decoration than for taste, and this is a big mistake to the culinary connoisseur. Additionally, a small jar of caramel sauce was also beside the dish; now this was a real stretch. I understand certain individual’s tastebuds relish the clashing of different tastes and ingredients, but these two side additions failed; if I had added the caramel or the chocolate rice cereal, I guarantee you that my experience of the dish would have dampened.
Max Brenner may not be the most exceptional restaurant in Boston, but it will certainly remain the prime destination for birthdays and similar events. Why, on the very night I dined, I counted three birthdays, all in a thirty minute interval. Each person received a piece of cake with a sparkler atop. I probably won’t go again until my own birthday, because I really just want the sparklers. I’ll pass on the cake.