We ended up at Mark's. A mistake, but hey, you've got to try.
Ambience: not as nice as Maxx. Equally loud. A little more antiseptic and a little less cozy. Like Maxx, an open kitchen, which I like.
Service: LOUSY under any standards, but particularly poor when compared to Cafe Maxx. Amateur waiter who brought me the wrong drink and then, rather than fixing it when I complained, blamed it on the bartender. Kept trying to take a martini away from my dad before it was finished. Couldn't describe menu items when asked (e.g., what's "lobster brulee?" Guess I'll never know). Bussing staff shoddy. Like the waiter, kept clearing before we were finished. No refills on the bread. V. slow with water service. Also disappointing to note that plates of their shoestring potatoes sat under heat lamps for up to a half hour waiting to be served (We didn't order any but noticed this from our vantage point.)
Food. It was fine. Nothing terrible. Nothing particularly good. I started with the crabmeat wrapped by tuna sashimi with "soy wasabe." Bland. Not interestingly presented. Tuna stringy. Was just plain soy sauce served on the side in a ramekin. Difficult presentation because it was impossible to dunk bites of the crumbly crab and tuna into the sauce. Had to pour the sauce over the tuna. Silly. Mom had an uninspiring Caesar salad (particularly in comparison to Maxx's--our favorite). Dad had "baked oysters" which weren't particularly flavorful. Entrees--I had the crispy whole snapper with black bean sauce and jasmine rice. The fish was flavorful and the crispy skin was great, but the fish was a bit dry. Couldn't help but think that it sat under the heat lamp along with the fries. Also, there was only a very little bit of sauce (adding to the dryness), which mostly got sopped up by an overcooked mound of julienne vegetables. Mom loved the duck. The highlight of the evening. Dad asked for his skirt steak rare. He got it medium. We passed on dessert but ordered cappuccinos, which were very weak and oddly sweet, as if they were made by one of those machines where you just press a button and poof, you have a fake cappuccino.
The meal wasn't BAD, just mediocre, and certainly WAY WAY below the level of Cafe Maxx.
As for the person who asked about Maxx's decor, I must admit that I found it astonishingly similar. Just updated. Same ambience, lighting, layout. In fact, when I went for the first time after a hiatus, it took me a few minutes to even figure out what felt different to me.