Fresno >Food & Dining > Max's Bistro & Bar
1784 W Bullard Ave, Fresno, CA | Directions 9371136.822916 -119.826132
Great Food, Great Service – I'm usually much wordier :-) but the title of my review says it all.
Steak OUT! – Our party of two beat out the after church crowd by about 20 minutes. Warmly greeted at the door, ushered to a table, we rejected, and selected a more suitable table. A group party of 12 was already in progress, with gifts, in the back, by the restrooms. Our female server was polite and smiling. She gave us our menus, gave us some time, brought us our drinks, read the specials, and returned to take our order. Everything on the lunch menu sounded delicious. I ordered a New York steak. Joan (not her real name) ordered the turkey sandwich. I ordered hot coffee and Joan ordered hot tea, which she selected from a box. We munched on fresh baked seasoned bread, dipping it in oil and vinegar. Appetizers were offered, but not ordered.
We ran out of bread, vinegar and oil before our meals came. My coffee cup and her tea cup were both empty. Joan commented that her rather large sandwich with an ample side portion of pasta, served on a bed of lettuce, was very tasty and that she enjoyed it. My steak, however, was a twenty-two-dollar disappointment. It was supposed to be “medium,” it was “rare.” It was returned and came back “well done.” The steak was tough, overcooked, and, but for the sauce, had absolutely no flavor. I asked for some fresh ground pepper. A brass pepper mill, apparently set for super fine, was offered. When I asked for more coarse ground, it was not possible. I settled for the regular table salt and pepper shakers. NOTE: Max’s Bistro should visit Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, or other culinary supply vendor, and spend a few dollars on a decent pepper mill! No excuse! The coarse ground pepper was going to be the “savior” for my steak. A bistro should not attempt to be a steakhouse! My mistake. But, actually, this was a “test visit” to determine whether or not Max’s would be a good Valentine’s Day dinner destination.
Noticeably, our server’s demeanor changed after I returned my steak. From years of experience I know better than to ever return anything, because the dining experience rapidly deteriorates to less than coffee shop status if you do. Our check was prematurely and abruptly presented. We were not asked how our meal was, and we were not offered any dessert. However, we insisted on asking for the dessert menu. Almost every item was accompanied by vanilla bean ice cream, as though to fill the plate and to justify inflating the prices. We ordered the crème brulee. It was a very small portion (about 4 tablespoons) topped with berries and sweet sauces that encircled the dish on a paper doily.
By now the restaurant was filling up quickly, and even though they definitely needed our table to vacate, the server took her sweet time returning, taking the credit card, running the tab, and picking up the folder. I tipped 15 percent, although I generally tip about 20 percent. I briefly considered not tipping at all, but, what the heck, I had already decided that Max’s was out of the running for mid February.
Max's Bistro – Max?s Bistro has become quite the Fresno staple. Whatever your fancy -- be it fresh baked bread, premium wine or the latest in French-inspired California Cuisine -- Max?s is sure to satisfy your every whim. To begin, we tasted the Thai Coconut Prawns with Mango Coulis and Thai dipping sauces. The textures of the succulent prawn, crispy coconut and sweet sauce all worked together marvelously.Also from the appetizer list were Crab Cakes with house-made tartar sauce, which were nice and crispy and not at all on the heavy side. What came next was Seared Scallops with celery root, Granny Smith apples and a lemon emulsion. The Strawberry & Spinach Salad featured ripe strawberries and baby spinach with feta cheese tossed with the bistro?s house-made poppy seed dressing. Jane especially enjoyed the fact that the strawberries are fresh from Fresno?s own farms. And now, for the piece de resistance? The Max Burger. With a generously portioned grilled patty topped with sharp cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, dijon mayo, lettuce, tomato and grilled red onions, this may SEEM like an ordinary burger, but ordinary it is not! Max?s offers a daily fish special, and the one we sampled today was the Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut, served with potato cake, spinach and citrus verjus coulis. The fish was perfectly succulent and each of the plated flavors worked beautifully with one another. Gingered Strawberry Shortcake and Molten Lava Cake were some heavenly morsels. The Lava Cake oozed a glorious hot fudge filling. Paired with vanilla ice cream, this dessert leaves you wanting nothing more. Max?s seems to have perfected the upscale food with a laidback atmosphere bit. Bon appetit!
Want to know more about local hot spots and the tastiest dishes around town? Check out Fresno Magazine each month for the Lunch Ladies review and Barfly column.
Vacation quality – Upon entering the artistically decorated dining room one can't help but feel they have been transported to a vacation hotspot. The menu is equally satisfying and well priced for the high quality. My pomegranite martini was delightful and the service was excellent. It was a lovely place to celebrate my birthday. The food was amazing!
Poor service. – A real disappointment. I went to Max's to have a nice dinner this evening. What I received was a snub job by the wait staff. I have dined at Max's on many occations, and have always received excellent service, but not this evening. I arrived at the restaurant shortly after 8pm. The tables in the restaurant were 2/3 to 3/4 full. I was a single diner. After a brief wait, I was seated at a small table. The busboy brought me water as I waited for the server to acknowledge my table. He never once looked in my direction (even when he was serving the table next to me - he just walked on by). After waiting a reasonable amout of time, I got up to leave. As I walked past the reception area, I told the hostess what had happened and why I was leaving. She appologized. I left the restaurant feeling sad that a local patron was treated like that at a locally owned restaurant. I went to a near-by chain restaurant after leaving Max's and had a good dining experience (good service, good food).
What a rip-off – Went there with a group of 24. They add a 20% gratuity and they added $50 + to our bill. Said they just added someone elses order to our bill but they certainly added the 20% tip to the extra charge. We will never go back.
Yuuuum – Scott has done an amazing job with this place. Great combination of food from casual style entrees to genuine bistro fare. Good value for dinner and the addition of take-out pre packaged foods is nice too. You absolutely must have one of the Lemon Bars.
Not fast food – this is definitely in the wrong category!!! this is upscale bistro food. so yummy. the sweet potatoe fries are teh best thing in the world!!
Max's Market and Bakery combines great deli food with a sunny, friendly atmosphere. – The Scene:
With fresh wildflowers in pails on the shiny concrete floor, a nice selection of bottled wines, and freshly baked loaves of bread stacked in cubbies on the back wall, Max's is more than a typical deli. Max's has a delicious selection of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers, and guests may eat inside or outside on the enclosed patio. Casual dress is appropriate.
If you order one thing:
The The Pan-Roasted Rosemary Chicken Breast is a favorite, served with roasted new potatoes and blue lake green beans.
Beautifully decorated & great service – The decor in this little gem in Northwest Fresno is stimulating. With a great winelist, good food and decent service, this is a great place for a romantic dinner. Don't forget to try the sweet potatoe fries. The servers are great with suggestions. The deli is nice for take out items.
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