Filipino food never tasted so good

Columns Lite Bites

June 1, 2014

Story By: Yu Shing Ting | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Ask my kids what they want to eat, and they often will answer Filipino food. They are part Filipino (12.5 percent), and go to many Filipino eateries on the island.

Their most favorite dish is fried pork, but some places serve it dry, with too much fat or oil, and they leave disappointed and still hungry.

So, when we find a place that cooks it right, it’s like we struck gold. That was the case at Max’s of Manila, where the food is not only tasty, but the servers are friendly, the restaurant is clean, comfortable and family-friendly; and there’s plenty of free parking. Also, the head chefs are from the Philippines, so you know the food is authentic.

Highly recommended by my children is Crispy Pata (Crispy Pork Hock, $13.50 mid size, $17.50 full size), which features premium pork hock simmered in a special marinade and deep-fried to perfection — with a crispy exterior, and soft and juicy interior. The dish also is served with soy vinegar dipping sauce. Yet, there’s so much flavor in the meat as is.

While Max’s is known for its extensive menu of traditional Filipino favorites, it’s Max’s Fried Chicken (whole $13.75, half $8.50) that the company is famous for. It all started in 1945, when Maximo Gimenez befriended American occupation troops stationed in Quezon City, and often invited them to his house for food and drinks. He eventually opened a cafe, and quickly grew a loyal following, including the G.I.s, for its crispy fried chicken made from a special recipe concocted by his niece.

“It’s very well seasoned, but it doesn’t have that (heavy) batter,” says Maly San Luis, who along with husband Michael are managing directors of Max’s of Manila in Hawaii. “It’s all in the pure marinade , so you also have that crispy skin that comes with it, without all the batter.”

Another popular dish is the classic Pancit Bihon ($8.95) made with fine rice noodles, sauteed with vegetables, pork, chicken and shrimp, and served with lemon.

This Father’s Day, Max’s of Manila offers a special Beer-Braised Pata Tim (Pork Hock) for $15.95 (available Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15).

“A lot of Filipino restaurants serve food that is pre-cooked in a steamer, and you pick and choose what you want. At Max’s, all of our dishes are made to order, so it’s fresh, and we have waiter service,” says San Luis. “We also fill a lot of takeout orders, and this graduation season we have a lot of catering pans, as well as in-house parties.”

The restaurant also participates with Room Service in Paradise, so you can have your order delivered. On Oahu, there are two Max’s of Manila locations — one in Waipahu and one on Dillingham Boulevard (across from Costco, in the same parking lot). For private events, the Waipahu eatery can be set up for parties of up to 200 people, and the Dillingham establishment for up to 150.

Outside of Hawaii, Max’s is in California (5 locations), Las Vegas and New Jersey; as well as in Canada (three locations) and in the Philippines where there are more than 120 branches.

“Next year, October, is Max’s 70th year, so starting this October there will be a year-long celebration,” adds San Luis. ”

Max’s of Manila

801 Dillingham Blvd. #108

94-300 Farrington Hwy. #F-1

Open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Westgate Shopping Center, Waipahu, HI 96797

Honolulu, HI 96817

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best