by Daniel Patrick Murphy ’13 and Sabastion Kimmel ’13
Every year, Hartford promotes and celebrates its consistently underrated dining scene with Restaurant Week, in which over 30 of the city’s more renowned establishments participate by offering a special three-course prix fixe tasting menu to display their culinary acuity and creativity. In our maiden voyage as the Food Dudes, we decided to head to Max Downtown, located in the hub of downtown Hartford at the City Place I building, to investigate the offerings of Restaurant Week. The Max Restaurant Group runs other Trinity student favorites including Max Burger, Trumbull Kitchen, Max’s Oyster Bar and is managed by Steven Abrams, who was recently recognized as the 2012 “Restaurateur of the Year” by the CT Restaurant Association. Having chosen one of their busiest evenings of the year, we were far from surprised to find ourselves in a bustling dining room where empty seats were few and far between. Even with kitchen staff shuffling through constantly, the service was still expectedly slow due to the high volume of guests. Luckily, we had brought a few friends along for dinner and managed to enjoy the delay between courses with good wine. The dining area was certainly tapered towards providing a fancier dinner experience rather than a casual lunch outing; the dimmed lighting and piano man playing smooth jazz contributed to projecting this atmosphere. We began our meal with the Veal and Ricotta Meatballs and the Southwestern Tortilla Soup for appetizers. The veal was very finely ground and delightfully tender, and was accompanied by a pine nut Parmesan polenta that had a similarly impressive consistency. The southwestern soup was a simple but well approached use of spices and cilantro in a hearty broth and was probably the most pleasantly surprising dish of the evening. For our entrees, we decided on the grilled New York strip in a red wine Jus, and loch duart salmon with a coconut curry sauce and basmati rice.
The New York strip steak was nothing short of savory, a testament to the restaurant’s ability to compete with the finest steakhouses of the area such as Morton’s. The salmon was perfectly crisped on the outside while retaining a soft and moist center. The curry sauce was spicy without being overwhelmingly hot and was sweetened by the coconut, definitely our favorite dish of the night. Despite being nearly filled from the two dishes we had already conquered, we pushed on to the dessert stage. We opted to finish our dinner with a vanilla crème brulée and the chocolate brioche bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. The crème brulée had a perfectly toasted top layer and was among the richest custards we had ever tasted. The chocolate brioche bread was flaky and soft, and could have been enjoyed thoroughly even without the delicious ice cream with which it was served. The Food Dudes wholeheartedly recommend that Trinity students take advantage of Hartford’s Restaurant Week as much as possible during their four years. Investigating the culinary scene of Hartford can be a difficult project on a college budget, but the tasting menu offer allows for a telling experience of the atmosphere, originality, and quality offered by several of the city’s most established eateries. The Food Dudes definitely regret having unfortunately missed out until our last year. While Max’s is undeniably one of the pricier restaurants in the downtown Hartford area, it is well worth a visit to enjoy what is definitely among Hartford’s finest dining experiences. Additionally, the tasting menu offered us an opportunity to enjoy an exquisitely creative, well-crafted and very filling dinner. Restaurant week without ao doubt adds pressure on the kitchen and staff, but they stepped up to the plate at Max Downtown. The Food Dudes give Max Downtown an eight out of ten.