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For Friends, By Friends: Maximo Comfort Cuisine

3 months ago

For Friends, By Friends: Maximo Comfort Cuisine

maximo comfort cuisine - baby octopus in lemon garlic

 

 

IT’S EASY FOR A RESTAURANT TO SERVE “COMFORT FOOD.” However, many restaurants end up using the label as an excuse for a bankable yet unadventurous menu. Maximo Comfort Cuisine is not one of them.

I met Geth Savellano, co-owner of Maximo Comfort Cuisine, over a plate of Mushroom Chicharon. Oyster mushrooms from Tagaytay are given a dry rub, fried, and served with cilantro aioli dip. It’s one of many dishes at Maximo that start from a point of familiarity before taking an unexpected turn.

“We want to serve comfort cuisine, food you’d find in your lola’s house—food that warms your heart,” shares Savellano. “But we also want to do it our way.”

Their Maximo Salad, for example, uses crunchy romaine lettuce, sundried tomatoes, candied walnuts, and blue cheese. The combo will be familiar to fans of Cyma’s Roka Salata, but what Maximo adds are large shavings of edam cheese and a smattering of fried capers.

Iba siya,” says Savellano with a grin, and true enough, frying the capers brought out a nutty flavor. Like most dishes on the menu, one serving is good for two to three people.

Many comfort food restaurants have salpicao. Maximo sees this and upgrades the usual beef into a Lamb Salpicao. The gamey flavor comes through strong, while the gently fried garlic (“It’s more like blanching garlic in oil,” says Savellano) balances it with a light sweetness. The Lengua Sisig is likewise a more indulgent take on an already “deadly” dish.

The Baby Octopus in Lemon and Garlic is an instant favorite. Baby octopus can be tricky to cook, but theirs is tender and addictively spicy. As we talked more about Maximo’s beginnings, I found myself digging deeper and deeper into the dish.

If dining at Maximo feels like visiting an old friend’s home, it’s because the eight owners have been friends for decades. The barkada even developed the menu by having a potluck dinner of family recipes. “Lahat kaming magkakaibigan, mahilig kumain,” shares co-owner Elmer Lagman. He brought his mother-in-law’s Chicken Galantina, which she used to supply for Rustan’s Bon Appetit. Served chilled and juicy, you don’t even need the sauce.

Larger groups can get more bang for buck with the Baked Iberian Chicken. It’s a simple dish done well—we’re talking juicy cloves of roasted garlic on the side.

Turns out Maximo has ties to another well-loved, home-style restaurant in Metro Manila. Maximo is named after Savellano’s late father, who was the brother of the “Victorino” of Victorino’s Ilocano Restaurant. This Ilocano connection explains the star ingredient of their Binagoongang Bagnet.

maximo comfort cuisine - mushroom chicharon

 

Apart from the name, nostalgia takes many forms in Maximo. Old pots from the owners’ homes hang inside the restaurant. Meanwhile, the dessert choices are a throwback to the snacks of Filipino childhood. (Milo Mousse, anyone?)

Those with a sweet tooth will like the Flat Tops Buchi, which encases molten chocolate in four balls of sweet potato and pinipig instead of the usual glutinous rice and sesame seeds. The Bibingka Mamon is the product of a time when the owners wanted to make bibingka but only found a mamon mold. They ran with it, and the result is a cross between the two desserts—and we daresay, as filling as two desserts, too.

maximo comfort cuisine - bibingka mamon

You could always dine at Maximo alone—we’re not one to knock some quality time with quality food—but if you can, bring someone. If there’s one thing to be learned from the story of Maximo, it’s that from food to conversation to the creation of a restaurant, everything is better when shared.

 

Words by Cristina Tantengco

Photographed by Zac Moran

 

You won’t feel bad about staying in your comfort zone with these healthy comfort foods

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