Flavorful Filipino Cuisine to da Max
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With dishes bursting with flavor, Max’s of Manila remains a popular choice for locals seeking delicious Filipino cuisine.
“It’s traditional Filipino cooking,” says managing director Maly San Luis, “and through Max’s, we’ve been able to take that internationally — to Filipinos living abroad — as well as to newcomers to Filipino cuisine.”
Max’s of Manila differs from other Filipino restaurants thanks to its fusion of flavors.
“Here in Hawaii, many of the Filipino restaurants are more northern cuisine, which is an Ilocano style of cooking,” explains San Luis. “The northern cooking is exotic; it takes an acquired taste for it. Because it (Max’s) originated in Manila, it’s more central Filipino cooking, which, I think, is more acceptable to a wider group of diners. It’s Chinese mixed with Malay mixed with Spanish.”
Max’s of Manila has two branches in Hawaii, both of which are located on Oahu — the Waipahu branch, which opened in March 2006, and the Dillingham branch, which opened last year.
While the restaurant is popular with the local Filipino community, San Luis notices that Hawaii locals as a whole are likely to try the flavorful cuisine at Max’s.
“Our base is still Filipino because they know the restaurant; they know the name from back home,” she says, “but we are beginning to get a lot of adventurous locals who are venturing into Filipino food.”
The international chain’s trademark dish — Max’s Fried Chicken — continues to be immensely popular.
“Through the cooking process, you end up with a product that’s crispy on the outside, but very tender and tasty on the inside,” San Luis says. “Originally, that’s what started it all. Since then, we have evolved into a full-fledged Filipino cuisine (eatery).”
Max’s most popular dishes include Kare-Kare ($12.50/$18.95), a peanut-based stew served with beef shank, stewed oxtail and vegetables. For dessert, the Halo-Halo ($5.70), a mixture of tropical fruits, beans and milk served in a bowl with shaved ice and topped with a piece of flan and ube (purple yam) ice cream, is often requested. The Crispy Pata ($12.95/$16.95) is a customer favorite for main entrees.
“Crispy Pata is crispy pork knuckles,” she says. “It’s very tender and we cook it for hours, and then it’s deep-fried and served with a vinegar soy sauce dip.”
Another of the restaurant’s signature dishes is the Lumpiang Ubod ($5.95), which contains shredded heart of palm mixed with pork, shrimp, vegetables and crab meat and is served with a fresh peanut sauce.
“This signature dish we have is not offered by any other restaurant,” San Luis says. “It’s a fresh lumpia; it’s not deep-fried like the normal lumpia that is served.”
Besides its variety of menu items, Max’s is a popular choice for parties and private events.
“In both branches, we have private rooms that accommodate parties,” San Luis states. “Here (at the Dillingham location), we have two rooms; both rooms can hold about 35 each.
For bigger groups — parties up to 150 people — we accommodate them toward the back of the main dining area. We’ve got two rooms at the Waipahu branch — one can accommodate about 30 (people) and the other, 100. In the branch itself, we can accommodate parties up to 180-190 (people).”
For the summer, Max’s of Manila is offering takeout package options. The Quick Picnic Package ($26.99) includes Max’s chicken, Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino style eggroll) and the customer’s choice of Pancit (noodles). The KO Package ($16.99) comes with Max’s chicken (legs and thighs), Lumpiang Shanghai and Chicken Chicharon (the chicken version of fried pork skins).
In addition to these summer specials, the restaurant has most recently expanded its dessert choices with the inclusion of the Caramel Bar, the most popular item featured at Max’s Bakery in the Philippines.
“In the Philippines, there is the Max’s restaurant and the Max’s bakery; we don’t have a bakery line here yet in the U.S.,” San Luis says. “We launched that (the Caramel Bar) this past year; we offer that with our combo meal as a dessert and we also sell it for retail. It comes in six pieces for $6.99.”
Max’s of Manila
- 801 Dillingham Boulevard
- Honolulu, HI 96817
- 94-300 Farrington Highway Suite F-1
- Waipahu, HI 96797
- (808) 951-6297
- Open daily
- 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Monday – Thursday
- 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Fridays and Saturdays
- 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.