John McCain may have lost his maverick mojo but as far as the local dining scene is concerned clearly Chef Andre Guerrero has not. Without missing a beat, including the continued operation of the affable Oinkster in Eagle Rock, he has managed to seemingly overnight transform his comfortable and dependable neighborhood restaurant into a fresh, vibrant and even more comfortable neighborhood bistro. The effect is telling.
Guerrero's cooking has long been one of the staples of the L.A. dining scene - a talented chef going about his business with a tried and true following whether it be the rarified celebrity crowd at Linq or the more quiet bedroom community crowd of the San Fernando Valley. But his cooking continually eaned the ubiquitous title of "the best in the Valley" and his multi ethnic approach to classic dishes whether a Tandoori salmon or lamb tacos always impressed.
In this new setting, however, more stylish, more relaxed, less precious, Guerrero has hit his stride. There's a buzz in the room with the crowd last night creating an absolute din. Traditional touches like handwritten specials on the blackboard, a more focused bar, and friendly and knowing service contribute to an overall effect of having become a local classic, like Cafe Luxembourg in NYC or Fringale in SF.
We started with the special market salad which could not have been more aptly named featuring two kinds of beets, haricot vert, a variety of tomatoes and greens lightly dressed for a very reasonable $8.50. Dungeness crab dumplings are superb for $10.50 while the standard NY pepper steak for $27 totally hits the mark featuring, again, a classic creamed cognac sauce that you find yourself cleaning the remnants of with that last swatch of bread. The black cod for $24 again presents no surprises but the carrots and bok choy have the crunch of freshness and the flavors satisfy. This is familiar fare expertly realized.
Guerrero is matched every step of the way by pastry chef Jan Purdy's delightful desserts. Butterscotch pudding is enhanced even further with a scotch component for $6.50 and a chocolate espresso souffle assortment includes a beautiful mini chocolate cream tart and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. The presentation would not be out of place at Aureole and at $8.50 is one helluva bargain. A Malbec recommendation was greatly appreciated for $8.50 a glass.
With this new format Max is now open for lunch Monday thru Friday.
13355 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
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