I've been eager to check out this place for quite some time seeing as it is (to my knowledge) the first attempt at high-end-ish dining in NoHo/Valley Village. It has been open for about six months. However, a combination of events (including that nasty Hurricane which shall not be named) stymied my plans. So, my first meal at Maximilian's came last night.
It was, unsurprisingly, quiet given that most people spend the Friday prior to Christmas either in a full-blown shopping frenzy or attending a seasonal soiree. I presume it is a fairly quiet night for restaurants city-wide and we went to dinner quite early, which only exacerbated the feeling of being the only couple dining out last night.
When we entered the restaurant I silently dreaded that we might be their only table. We were their second party of the night, which was only slightly less awkward than being the first.
However, we were warmly welcomed and given a choice of tables and the option of either of the restaurant's two rooms. One room was small and cozy (and contained the only other diners), with a fresco depicting some sort of vaguely French scene. The other had an open kitchen - we chose the view of the kitchen.
The menu was very appealing and included, entrees like bouillabase, short ribs, lamb chops, osso bucco, several types of fish (Salmon, Sturgeon and John Dory) along with a filet and a few other items. They had a couple of soups, four salads from which to choose and several apps that looked great. Among the apps were tuna tartare, an oxtail dish, butternut ravioli and duck confit.
We ordered a half-bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Papes for $23.00. It was a vintner I'd never heard of, it was an '03 and it was not particularly distinguished, but neither was it anything to complain about. Then we set about ordering.
I chose the duck confit app along with the braised short ribs as my entree. My companion ordered a market salad and tuna tartare appetizer.
Our salads were excellent. Mine featured vinagarette-dressed frisee with a few apples and walnuts along with a crispy, succulent duck leg. The duck skin was perfectly crisped, the meat was moist and most importantly, the dish wasn't overly unctuous. I savored every bite. The market salad was beautifully composed of butter-lettuce, toasted, slivered almonds, fava beans, marinated carrots and an artisinal cheese. Though I didn't taste it, it must have been good since our plates were each thoroughly cleaned.
The bread at our table, a sliced baguette, was distinguished by the fact that it was simple and yet perfectly done. So many places either have terrible bread or overly elaborate and showy bread selections. For me, a good baguette and butter triumphs over all.
My entree was three braised short ribs, served in a shallow bowl over creamy polenta and garnished with a small mound of orange-zest. The polenta was garnished with three large leafs of flat-leaf parsley and three pearl onions. It is hard to mess-up braised short ribs. These had a slightly anise or maybe even Chinese five-spice flavor however they weren't cloyingly sweet they way short ribs can be. They were delicious and as an added bonus, my dog got the bones as her early Christmakkah gift.
My girlfriend's tuna tartare was different that our favorite version at i Cuigini but equally delicious. It was served with two beautifully grilled crostini, atop a bed of avocado. The bluefin tuna was in large, uniform pieces and was so red it looked like summer tomato. The tuna was dressed in a meyer-lemon vinagrette and had lots of garlic which was very pronounced but the fish stood up well to it as did the avocado. We ate every single bite.
For desert we had coffee and split a buttermilk panna cotta served with oven roasted strawberries and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar.
Our tab (pre-tax and tip) was an astonishingly reasonable $90.
The food was, to a dish, excellent. The preparation and presentation displayed a precision and exactitude I, frankly, have learned never to expect anywhere "over the hill".
In my experience, Maximilian far outshines the so-called fine dining that the Valley has to offer including Barsac, Max and Ca' del Sol. Even in spite of its obscure location, this place should be at the top of the list for dining options in the Valley.
It is far and away so much better than quasi-French places, like Cafe Bizou and Wine Bistro, that I shudder at the thought of this place not getting its due in terms of business or even in terms of reputation.
818/ 980 6294