Max's of Manila is a Filipino restaurant chain. The one in Sacramento is on Mack Road.
The funny thing is is that I am half Filipino on my mother's side and I know nothing about what to order. I've had Filipino food and have been to the Philippines many times, but I'm still pretty ignorant. The reason is that my mom's family was upper middle class. They had a cook, maid, and a chauffeur. My mom spoke only English until high school when she had to learn Tagalog to graduate. So she never spoke the language to us and she didn't know how to cook many Filipino foods. So the only Filipino foods I had at home were pancit, lumpia, and adobo. The only foods I learned to love there were lechon and bangus. Trouble is, there are a lot of versions of each of these dishes and I don't know specifically which versions of these dishes are the ones I'm familiar with! In fact, I had to ask a Filipino coworker today to help me look at the menu and maybe figure that out!
So off I go to Max's. Max's does have descriptions by the dishes and lots of pictures in the menu and on the posters or banners around the restaurant. The first challenge - lumpia. I wanted to order the one that I thought was closest to the made-at-home version. But my ex thought the appetizer sounded close too, and so I went with him and ordered that one. Lumpiang Shanghai: Ground pork and spices rolled in lumpia wrapper, deep-fried and served with atchara and delicious sweet & sour sauce. Wrong one! I've found it pretty typical that when you order lumpia from a deli, as an appetizer, from the frozen food section, you get these tiny things filled with mostly meat. I want my mom's that are filled with meat and veggies and are the size of Chinese eggrolls! Not these tiny meat logs!
We did want to be a bit adventurous and so we ordered a soup - Sinigang na Hipon:
A slightly sour shrimp soup dish combined with well-liked vegetables. This was a regular size and was good for two people. It came with lots of veggies and four large prawns with shells and heads. This made it a little messy with having to peel them and the soup was hot! So we had to take the shrimp out, let them cool, peel them, then put them back in the soup. But the soup was very flavorful.
We had to order the fried chicken for work reasons. Max's is supposed to be famous for their super crispy fried chicken. Well, it is super crispy, if that is all you are looking for. But they just fry a chicken - as in, there is no coating. My favorite fried chicken at another restaurant (for another review on another day) has a great, spicy coating on it. Also, the breast meat still was on the dry side. I'm a dark meat lover because I just find breast meat too dry. My favorite has wonderful moist breast meat. Not Max's. So sorry, whoop-de-doo on their famous fried chicken.
The last thing we ordered was the bangus. This is the one dish I do know how to order the way I like it. Bangus is a milkfish that has a lot of little bones. A good preparation is able to get all the bones out. They then take the fish and marinate it in a vinegar solution and then, the way I like it, they grill it. The menu had it, but with a mushroom sauce on it. We ordered it with the sauce on the side. That way I got it the way I like it and Deon got to have it with the mushroom sauce. (Mushrooms - yuk!) I happily ate 3/4 of the fish and let Deon have most of the chicken.
In the end I still didn't accomplish finding the proper version of my lumpia. The bangus was right. Max's is okay, but nothing special. The thing going for it is their pictured menus. This versus the other Manila restaurant down the mall that doesn't and I had the horrible experience of totally ordering wrong and getting food we hated! But I will return and try the lumpia I wanted to and see if I get closer to mom's and also try their pancit (noodles).
One last note. Max's is connected to Seafood City, a Filipino grocery. They have a huge fish/meat section that is fabulous. They also have all those crazy Asian snacks like flavored fried anchovies. It's interesting just checking it out.