Max's Fried Chicken Restaurant is one of those Filipino food obsessions that I absolutely MUST indulge every time I visit the Philippines (another one being Jollibee ;-) Having grown up in the Philippines, I have very fond childhood memories of my mom taking my sister and me to Max's Restaurant in the SM Centerpoint Mall near our house in Manila. There we gorged ourselves on delicious Filipino dishes such as pansit, sinigang, lechon kawali, and of course, Max's absolutely divine fried chicken.
It was this combination of nostalgia and gustatory fixation that moved me to drive 45 minutes from my home in Milpitas, CA to visit Max's Restaurant in South San Francisco, CA. (Quite a feat for me, considering the fact that I do not enjoy driving at all, as I mentioned in an earlier post.) But, I'm glad to say, the experience was well worth the long drive.
Inside, the place has a homey, comfortable feel to it. And the staff is quite pleasant and helpful. After my companions and I settled into our seats, I quickly found a unique gem from the Philippines - Jufran banana sauce!
In the hearts, minds, and palates of Max's fried chicken fans, Jufran banana sauce and Max's fried chicken are inextricably linked. They go together like bacon and eggs, cookies and milk, or love and marriage (one made in heaven, of course ;-) The tangy sweet-sour taste of Jufran is the perfect complement to the chicken's subtle seasoning. It is a symbiotic relationship where neither one can fully realize its potential without the other.
I can't imagine anyone coming to Max's and not ordering the chicken. After all, that's what this place is all about. So that was the first thing we ordered. And I'm happy to say that it fully lives up to the standard of excellence established by Max's in the Philippines. The crispy golden brown skin is simply a delight to bite into (producing a very light yet satisfying crunch). And on the inside, the tender and juicy meat is seasoned just right to produce a subtle yet distinctive flavor. These qualities, combined with the lively Jufran sauce, make for an unbeatable combination!
Max's tag line touts it as "The House That Fried Chicken Built". While that is completely true, it's not just the chicken that's good here. We also enjoyed delicous bangus sisig - which consists of finely chopped milkfish (bangus) which is then seasoned with vinegar and spices, fried, and served up on a sizzling plate.
We also had pansit palabok (thin rice noodles smothered with a hearty topping of ground pork sauce, green onions, and egg):
Owing to centuries of contact between the Philippines and China, Chinese influence is quite pervasive in Filipino culture, as evidenced by chop suey, which appears on the menu of many a Filipino restaurant (including Max's):
It's great to cool off after such a hearty meal with calamansi (a Philippine citrus fruit resembling lime) juice...
or sago't gulaman - a refreshing beverage made from tapioca (sago) and jelly (gulaman):
Yes, the 45-minute drive to get to this place can be a challenge for me. But until they open a Max's restaurant closer to Milpitas, I think I will be making many more long jaunts on the freeway ;-)
1155 El Camino Real
South San Francisco CA 94080
(For more info & reviews on Max's Restaurant, visit Urbanspoon.com:)