Every once in a while it's nice to forgo the adventure of trying a new place and fall back on a sure thing, to sit down to dinner where you know your meal will satisfy. Max's Oyster Bar is one of those places. Dining there last night, for only $20.08, was extra pleasing.
Last night, like many others, Amy and I both knew what we wanted to order before we got there. The CT Restaurant Week menus were available on line and we had already made our decisions. No stammering indecisively over the menus, asking questions, or tying up an already in-the-weeds server.
I started with Max's classic chopped salad, with Gorgonzola and sherry vinaigrette, which was dressed perfectly. For my main course I chose their grilled Bay of Fundy salmon with a maple syrup glaze, served with a apple and potato hash and pomegranate nage. It was outstanding. The generous salmon filet was cooked perfectly with a beautiful crust and the precisely diced apple potato hash was sweet yet tart and a perfect accompaniment.
I chose the clam chowder to start. It came in a stainless steel mug that was poured into my bowl by the server, and was accompanied by a wax-paper bag filled with homemade oyster crackers. The chowder was thick and appetizing, with plenty of clams, few potatoes, and bits of applewood smoked bacon. The shellfish pappardelle was excellent as well. The papparedelle was made in house, and it was cooked al dente as it should be. There was plenty of shellfish also - two grilled jumbo shrimp and several littleneck clams and mussels - tossed in a fiery fra diavolo tomato sauce. The portion was just right. Creme brulee is one of our favorites, and we both chose it as our finale. The cool, velvety custard had rich vanilla flavor and a flawlessly burnt sugar crust. The only downside was the topping of too-tart chopped strawberries. A little shortbread cookie on the side was a nice extra touch.
This restaurant is typically busy, being located in West Hartford, but was even more so during Restaurant Week. Thus, it was easy to forgive the lagging service. Our friendly waiter (who Joanne mentioned was in-the-weeds) was as attentive as he could be given the situation he was in, delivering double-tiered platters of shellfish to tables of six or eight in addition to taking care of us and several other "deuces." Besides, the gap between courses gave us time to gossip and digest. Our water glasses were kept full and our table was cleared in a timely manner throughout the visit.
It was certainly worth our while to brave the unseasonably cold weather to visit Max's Oyster Bar for what we knew would be an excellent meal and an exceptional deal.