Filipino Fare That’s Here to StayCover Story
October 15, 2017
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
Seventy-two years ago, when U.S. troops occupied the Philippines, a teacher in Quezon City found himself making friends with the Americans, offering them food and drink, opening his home and his heart.
Maximo Giminez’s hospitality prompted the grateful, homesick soldiers and sailors to insist on paying him. Soon his wife, sister-in-law and her niece Ruby came aboard to help him open a cafe. Later, when Ruby expanded, she decided to call her restaurant Max’s, after the kindhearted “uncle” who extended his friendship to American troops.
This month marks the 72nd anniversary of the founding of Max’s Restaurant in the Philippines. According to Maly San Luis, general manager of Max’s of Manila in Hawaii, the chain will once again — for the eighth year — celebrate the occasion with its famed Chicken Blowout promotion. Max’s Fried Chicken, made with Ruby’s old recipe, will be offered at half-price this Tuesday, Oct. 17, the restaurant’s anniversary. The regular price for an entire crispy, succulent bird is $14.95, but on the 17th only, they’ll be offered at just $7.48 each.
“It’s our flagship product, a 70-plus-year-old recipe of tender young chicken marinated in signature seasonings and golden-fried to perfection!” says San Luis.
Ruby’s famous recipe is now served in 100 restaurants in the Philippines, as well as locations in North America and the Middle East. “All 16 branches in North America will be celebrating with this promotion — it’s our way of giving back to the community,” San Luis adds.
Everything at Max’s is cooked to order; nothing is served from steam trays. The eatery has made it easy to order on its website, and it also offers delivery in and around Honolulu through Bite Squad. Max’s also frequently adds new delights to its menu, like Laing ($8.95), a hearty Bicolano pork stew made with mildly spicy taro leaves simmered in coconut milk. Another special that was added to the permanent menu by popular demand: Pork Barbecue Skewers ($11.95), four generous skewers of sliced pork marinated in a sweet, tangy sauce. “This is the ultimate Filipino comfort food!” says San Luis.
Traditionalists love Pancit Bihon Noodle ($9.95), slender rice noodles sauteed with vegetables, pork, chicken and shrimp; it’s Max’s most popular noodle dish. And those hungering for a deeply authentic Filipino fish dish will fall in love with Daing na Bangus ($14.95), a whole boneless marinated milkfish, indigenous to the Philippines, marinated in a vinegar and garlic sauce, deep fried and served with Max’s papaya house relish and vinegar-garlic dip.
After celebrating its anniversary, and raising funds in stores for Susan G. Komen Hawaii from Oct. 18 through Nov. 15, Max’s will once again host its annual Thanksgiving Brunch Buffet this year, to kick off its busiest season.
“We’re equipped to host big groups,” says San Luis. “With the holidays approaching, we’re accepting reservations; we can accommodate private parties of 20 to 200 people. We also have cater trays for takeout.”
Never tried Filipino food? Here’s a Max’s menu for local newbies, created by an expert! General manager Maly San Luis, a local girl herself, suggests starting with Max’s Teasers (Lumpiang Shanghai, Fried Calamari Rings and Crispy Tentacles). “Then I’d recommend Max’s Fried Chicken, Pork Adobo, Pancit Bihon Noodles, and Fish Fillet with Black Bean Sauce,” she continues. “And they should try our Garlic Fried Rice, and finish with our famous Halo Halo dessert!”
With menus overseen by executive chef Patricio Joven, a 30-year veteran of the franchise, Max’s offers a spectacular array of authentic Filipino dishes. “Our style of cuisine is known as Tagalog cooking, from Manila, the central region of the Philippines,” explains general manager Maly San Luis. Tagalog cuisine, which varies greatly from province to province, includes plenty of panghimagas (desserts) and gorgeous dishes from Batangas, where Lake Taal is home to 75 species of freshwater fish.