When I lived in the East Village, I loved Max for cheap comfort food. The bread accompaniment alone--a briney, olive-y, lemon zest-y tomato and olive oil goop--was enough to keep me coming back.
Moved to Harlem, and was disappointed that despite the Soha moniker, Max Soha doesn't deliver outside Morningside Heights. Had a couple meals there and was underwhelmed. Found the ethnic divide--Italian waitstaff standing around, and Latino busboys running around--even more disturbing/pronounced than in the EV.
Went back the other night and was super disappointed.
To start, the special salad--arugula, hearts of palm, avocado, cherry tomato. $8.95. A handful of lackluster droopy arugula, some under-ripe avocado, two hearts of palm strips and some unsurprisingly uninspired out of season tomato bits. Topped with some olive oil, I guess, and no discernible acid or salt.
The bread tasted like that parbaked stuff you can buy frozen. Which can be satisfying if you don't make bread at home, and want hot bread at home. But when not hot at the restaurant, and not interesting, and not crusty...well, it was a disappointment. And the tomato goop, which I so loved, was overwhelmingly sweet, with oversized matchsticks of lemon rind and no zest, and none of the brineyness and complexity of the EV incarnation.
My partner's rigatoni and eggplant had a crazy eggplant to pasta ratio, with huge chunks of eggplant that overwhelmed. She picked out all the pasta she could find, and brought the eggplant home--balancing the pasta/eggplant ratio should result in two more huge meals.
My fettucine with lamb sauce was fantastic, though overly salted. The fresh pasta had nice bite, and the sauce was lovely.
Though the restaurant was only about half full, and the waiters were all standing around a couple yards from our table, I had to be very proactive about getting my water refilled.
All in all, I might go back for the pasta, but I'm not in a rush.