My husband and I decided to stop in Hartford for dinner on our way back from Southern Maine to NYC. We didn't have much expectations - I'd lived in Hartford for a year and while I wasn't quite the "chowbitch" that I am now (sorry, my favorite word of the night) I also didn't remember being impressed with much of the city's offerings. But it was starting to rain, and being on a motorcycle in the rain is no fun, so we decided anywhere warm with decent food would do.
A quick search led us to Max Downtown, and we actually had an excellent dinner, and I was impressed enough that I wanted to write about it on Chowhound. We ordered (we usually share everything) butternut squash soup, ricotta tortellini, duck and fig salad, creamed spinach gratin, and grilled lamb loin chops off CT Restaurant Week menu. Everything was delicious! There was not a single bad or even mediocre dish. I could eat that duck and fig salad everyday, literally. I mean, I really wish I could. Dressed just right with generous amounts of duck confit and grilled figs, brightly accented by pomegranate seeds and candied walnuts for added texture and slight sweetness - yes, it's a common salad, yes, you've seen it before, but it was among the best versions of it I've ever had. Ricotta tortellini could have been totally pedestrian, but topped with candied bacon, shaved apple, pumpkin seeds, pieces of butternut squash, covered with brown butter glaze (yes, I'm referring back to the menu) it was savory with just the right amount of sweetness and they were a hit for me. They knocked it out of the park with the lamb too - it was cooked perfectly (medium rare, natch) and went so well with accompanying carrots and brussels sprouts. Those roasted and slightly caramelized brussels sprouts were so delicious that I could have eaten a bowl of them on their own. And I usually hate vegetables. The creamed spinach too was better than what I've had at a number of well-known steakhouses in NYC and elsewhere - even without the decadent gruyere topping, it was tasty all on its own. My husband had a glass of St. Supery "Elu" (priced at $15, originally $30) to accompany it all. I just asked him what he thought of it, and he said "lot of wood, yet well-balanced and incredibly smooth" and declared it a very good wine and a great value.
All in all, it was an unexpectedly excellent dinner, and I wanted to share it with CT 'hounds and also thank you guys for implicitly pointing me in that direction. Without you guys, it would have been yet another trip to Hot Tomato's for "good enough" food, but certainly nothing like what we had at Max Downtown.