50 minutes. 50 minutes past our reservation time. That is when we were finally brought to our table on Saturday night at the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant in Manhattan. Needless to say, our group of six was not terribly thrilled to have waited over an hour after we arrived for a table we were told would be ready at our reservation time. The restaurant was heaving on this Saturday night and we heard walk-ins being told the wait for a table was over 2 hours. We were glad to have a reservation, even with the 50 minute wait. Once seated we were promptly brought an order of waffle fries and an order of onion rings, complimentary to thank us for our patience. We munched on them as we browsed the menus and the snacks brightened our moods considerably.
My mood, however, diminished again upon reading the menu. At a place known for dessert, dinner might not be up to par, and that was the case here. The dinner menu was quite small. Every single salad was doused with cheese, chicken, quinoa, and other high protein ingredients, while the only appetizers appropriate for me were the two that we were already eating. I tried to order a flatbread pizza without the cheese, which has been a tried and true option for me at many other establishments. To my surprise, the marinara sauce has cheese mixed right into it! I did the best I could with (cold) buttered noodles, the only thing I could really come up with. Everyone else agreed that their dinner wasn’t the best either, but we were all saving room for dessert.
Dessert. Boy oh boy, did dessert truly make up for the rest of the evening! The 50 minute delay in our reservation, the cold noodles, the small menu, the “just okay” entrees… all of that melted away as smoothly and sweetly as the chocolate ganache that spouted from the giant plastic syringe.
The syringe was $5 and after all six of us had a “shot”, it was just about finished. Be careful when giving your friends their “shots”, if you squeeze a little too hard it will make quite a mess! We may have learned that the hard way but honestly that is half the fun at a novelty restaurant such as this.
I spent $20 on a dessert called “Urban Smores for Two”. Everyone declined my offer to share it and it was still worth every cent. A little sterno fire was set up right in front of me, and I got a bowl of marshmallows to toast along with graham crackers and a little beaker of the most delicious melted chocolate I’ve ever tasted. I ate two full smores before downing the rest of marshmallows sans cracker, toasting them to a perfect golden brown before pouring the chocolate over them.
One of my friends got something called a melting heart cake, which was a chocolate lava sort of thing served in the most adorable fashion. What looked like a mini-milkshake was in fact called an “iced chocolate shot”, and pouring it over the top of the warm cake made for a gooey, delicious mess. Other desserts that made their way around the table included smores crepes, two varieties of giant ice cream sundae, and a chocolate cappuccino in a “kangaroo cup”, which had a little slot for melting chocolate. Dessert is truly the crown jewel of Max Brenner, and it had us all wishing that we had gotten a cheap, light dinner elsewhere so we had more money, calories, and time for all the chocolate!
When the bill came I found that they charged me $17.99 for a bowl of penne pasta with butter. Yikes! The waiter explained that it is their policy to charge the same price for any substitution. I explained that it wasn’t so much a substitution as an omission- $17.99 was the listed price for a pasta entrée that included chicken and cheese as well as a creamy sauce, none of which I could eat and all of which I paid for. After speaking with the manager that were able to take it down to $9.99 which I much appreciated. Another one of the tough parts about eating out with PKU.
This dinner was bachelorette celebration for my friend Christine, and all in all we had a wonderful day, a delightful dessert, and a fantastic weekend. However we all agreed that we would not return to Max Brenner for dinner. We all would definitely return for dessert, and we would come armed with the knowledge that a reservation might be delayed 50 minutes. And we would NEVER attempt to come in without a reservation on a Saturday night!