The Max of Eastman Place Comments Archive contains comments made prior to 2008 and was archived on Feb 13, 2010.
2005-08-16 08:40:23 This is my favorite restaurant in the area (for nearly any definition of area). I've got a soft spot for several others, but this is the best restaurant in the area. If it were transplanted to Manhattan, and had the prices multiplied by 2 or 3, it would be one of the best restaurants there. Tony Gullace, the chef, is a culinary genius. I take a cynical attitude towards most restaurants, looking at the menu, and figuring out what the places is least likely to do wrong. This strategy has served me very well, to the point where my friends comment that I always seem to order the "right" thing. This strategy has no place at Max, because everything here, on an off night, is still phenominal. Everything on the menu is done just right - when you read the description on the menu, and an image in your mind forms of the dish prepared perfectly, you receive something very close to that image (often with a surprising, but pleasant twist). Presentation is elegant and simple. The only problem, if you can call it that, is that the food might be lighter than what a young hungry person might want. If you're jonesing for filet mignon, you're set, but if this isn't a steakhouse. For that, try Max Chophouse in Brighton, which, and despite this review, I'm not one who says this lightly, serves the best steak I've had outside of Kobe, Japan.
Before I get the review fully underway - No, I'm not someone who uniformly praises restaurants, nor someone with a vested interest (aside from eating more of his cooking) in Chef Gullace's success. But this is the best restaurant in Rochester, and if you go there, and eat light, and disagree, please add it to the comments below this review, for all to see.
The drinks at Max are solid. I'm not a wine guy, but friends of mine who I go with are, and they're always happy with the offerings, and they sometimes discover something new. I drink cocktails, and they make flawless margaritas and cosmopolitans (neither are too sugary, salty, heavy, as often happens).
The food is, as I've said, extraordinary. I'll mention specific favorites of mine, but I've tasted almost everything, and I've never been dissappointed - so don't order something just because I mention it over something unknown that sounds better. That said, I'll begin with the salads (we tend not to order appetizers, except as entrees, but when we've had them they've been great (they tend to be the least traditional, and hence most interesting). The green salad makes you realize just how much a good vinaigrette adds to a salad. There's a solid caesar, but my favorite are the arugala salads - they change every few weeks, but the often have walnuts or pinenuts, a little cheese (goat cheese or gorgonzola), a fruit or sweet vegetable, and a vinaigrette.
Entrees fall into a few different categories. Pastas and risottos tend to have a light but rich brothy sauce, and vegetables (most often spinach). The entree pastas have red meat (veal in the bolognese sauce, sausage in the most recent iteration). The chicken dish is very good, and not too heavy. The most interesting things are often the fish entrees, always prepared perfectly with an interesting sauce and vegetables to complement it. The red meat dishes are also very good, but if you're interested in larger red meat servings, check out Max Chophouse, the best steakhouse around. Specific favorite entrees of mine: The pastas and risottos (no Atkins for me), and the fish. His swordfish, in particular, is leaps and bounds beyond any other swordfish preparation I've had - he manages to make it neither tough, nor heavy. The tuna, whether done with a soy citrus sauce, or in a more mediterranian style, is always great. The lighter white fishes are probably the best, however - Gullace has the lightest touch with fish I've ever expericenced, and nothing's better than a light but solid and flavorful fish.
Desserts are great, and often creative. Light sorbets, creme brulle, other standards from upscale places are done very well. In addition, he currently has a lovely root beer float, a fudge brownie sundae, and a martini glass filled with fresh berries, chambord, and fresh whipped cream. These less conventional deserts are just as solid.
The menu changes regulalry - dishes slide on and off the menu, with favorites returning. Daily specials are often very interesting.
Prices can be seen on the menu, but salads are $5-9, entrees are around $17-30 (Menu changes, but the prices remain fairly stable)
Dietary restrictions: Shouldn't be a problem - inform your server. Vegetarians who want more options can order one of the appetizers in an entree size. One person I eat with can't stand onions, and this can be accomidated without a problem. Vegans might have trouble, but I'll try to find out.
2006-02-14 14:45:32 This is the best restaurant in Rochester. Everytime I go there I'm transported to some kind of gastronomic dreamland. It's a great place to impress a date. In fact I'm going there tonight for v-day, I'll let you guys know how it goes! Budget Dining Tip: go during lunch, when the prices are around $10 per entree. —BenMargolis
2006-02-15 11:56:46 The Valentine's Day menu was very good. There were what sounded like 4-5 specials for appetizers and 4-5 for entrees. My dining companion's veal osso bucco pasta had a wonderful texture, with hearty portion of tenderly stewed meat. My surf and turf was very good. The steak was so delicous every bite was like eating a bite of candy. The lobster tail was different than the normal lobster. It was flavorful and had more of a fishy or gamey taste than I'm used to. Maybe it's because of its freshness. The liquified butter was on the side, allowing this natural flavor to come through. At one point I mentioned to my dining companion that I wish I had one of those little forks for eating shellfish. About ten seconds later, the server placed the tiny fork on my table. I wonder if she heard me. Also, the sommolier selected a great pinot noir to match my surf and turf, which made the experience even more enjoyable. —BenMargolis
2006-02-15 12:21:17 Coincidentally, I too was there for Valentine's Day! (Actually, I was BenMargolis's dining companion.) I just wanted to add that the desserts were fabulous as well. I got a root beer float (yes, really)—the root beer tasted homemade and the vanilla bean ice cream was delicious. It was served with ginger snap cookies. Ben got banana crepes, which were also excellent. Our server was very attentive, as were the sommelier and the girl with the bread basket. The atmosphere was romantic and upscale but not snobby. We also got an appetizer which was absolutely delicious—shrimp, chorizo, and potato slices in a garlic-oil sauce. So good :) —RachelBlumenthal
2006-06-30 12:17:13 Celebrated a friend's b-day here. Food was ok - I didn't care for the soft-shell crab - the accompanying soy dip was wrong for it...I ended up using it on the frites. They could have gone w/ a sharp chili-lime sauce. I also struggled through my dessert. BUT - the chef's-compliment salad was a pleasing start (dig walnuts) and our server was fabulous - observent, w/ great timing, patient, and knew when to disappear. So - given how rare that seems to be for ROC, I'd recommend Max on the service alone. —ChristineLeo
2006-07-05 08:34:05 Well. After reading RocWiki's glowing commentary on Max of Eastman Place, I was expecting my first trip to be a sort of culinary eye-opener. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The food was good, but lacked the flavor, complexity, and presentation that I was looking for in a gourmet meal. I had the chef's special - scallops paired with pulled pork - and the result was interesting, but not sensational. My dining companions felt the same about their dishes as well. It seems that Max's chef has sacrificed bold flavor for perfect technique. One final note: be careful to look over your check at the conclusion of your meal. One of my dining companions ordered a salad on the menu that we were intially told would be $11, but our waiter charged $21 on our bill. Also, although our total came to $84, there is now a $89 charge on my Visa card, which we are still waiting for the restaurant to resolve. Although Max at Eastman Place is touted as the "best in Rochester," our experience left MUCH to be desired. —GreenBrenana
2006-10-02 12:20:30 Tony Gullace provides the 2 best upscale dining experiences in town - period —GordonAnderson
2007-08-30 14:38:23 The finest restaurant in Rochester with excellent food and a great ambiance.
I like how the dining room is separated from the bar to not have to listen to bar patrons, who can often be loud. —MrRochester
2007-09-10 11:58:37 09-07-07
Best meal of my life. The food was fabulous, each bite better than the last. Service was perfect. Chef came out to speak to us. Food was fresh and interesting. Well worth the premium price. I can't wait for another event to celebrate so I can talk my husband into it again! —ErinDwyer
2007-09-25 09:53:17 On September 7, 2007, my partner and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary with dinner at Max. It was the best food I have ever eaten, that I didn't prepare myself.
I highly recommend this restaurant for a special night out. While the prices are high, they reflect the high quality of the ingredients and the care put into preparation. —ErinDwyer
2007-11-27 23:40:54 In short: close, but no cigar.
The location is nice, just in front of the Eastman Theater and, from what I read here in the wiki, is probably the best you can find in Rochester. The dining room is warm and elegant but just outside the door lies the anonymous and cold Miller Center (once Eastman Place). The wine list offers a good choice of domestic and foreign wines (about 400 entries in total) but, apart for Champagne region, lacks “big names” (that’s not necessarily a minus for an average restaurant, but due to the ambitions of Max, it is) and older vintages. It could also have a better geographical organization (Domestic Pinot Noirs is too generic to be useful). No list of wines by the glass or half-bottles either. Silverware and glassware are above average (Spiegelau glasses are not as fancy as Riedel’s, but they are adequate for the restaurant): unfortunately, you don’t get the right glass for the wine; you have one wine glass on the table when you sit down and you stick with it whatever wine you choose. The food, finally, is good and well cooked but more creativity is truly needed to be an outstanding culinary experience. BTW, there is no list of desserts and I consider it annoying having to remember six different choices.
Service was nearly perfect, apart from a weird scene with the wine: initially we were told that our choice was not available, immediately thereafter the waitress told us she got confused and that the wine was actually present. After several minutes (our appetizers already served) she came back to say that, in fact, the wine was finished. When I decided for a different bottle, a new waiter finally appeared with our first choice.
I had the chef’s special appetizer, scallops with pulled pork: an interesting variation on the surf and turf theme but not well balanced, the scallops disappear under the pork taste and its heavy demi-glace sauce. My wife had “arancini” (originally, a traditional southern Italy recipe), basically risotto fritters stuffed with taleggio cheese paired with marinara sauce: good, but the rice was overcooked.
Entrees were a lot better: I had roasted lamb shank with vegetables and lamb jus, very well done; my wife took a free range breast of chicken with organic butternut squash puree, excellent, even if a little too salty.
We had a bottle of 2005 Domaine Serene, Yamhill Cuvee, Willamette valley pinot noir, very good but way too young.
Finally, my wife had a creme brulee and I got a warm chocolate cake: perfect but not at all original.
The check totaled to $166 before tip, whose $75 for the wine. Once again, for this price I really expect more, even in Rochester. —AndreaCogliati
2007-11-29 17:48:34 Dinner on Monday, Nov 25.
The sweetbreads were divine. Crunchy and creamy as any I've eaten matched with root veggies and a correct beurre noisette. The scallop with pulled pork is a menu standard and never disappoints. The Arancini – a traditional rustic Italian dish made from leftover risotto, hand breaded then fried. Nice textural contrast. NY strips for entrees. USDA Prime beef cooked to a desired medium rare and rested to allow the juices to redistribute. Hand cut frites, tender swiss chard, and a red wine demi. Nicely cut steaks at more than an inch thick.
A Robert Biale Zinfandel Napa Ranches that was a perfect complement. MAX really shines for wine connoisseurs with a list packed with hard to find gems such as Betts & Scholl, multiple bottlings of Linne Calodo, Turley Zin, Rhones, CDNP, approachable Burgs, SALON champagne, etc. Domestic offerings a la Fisher, Shafer, Silverado Rsv, even a Bryant Family or Screaming Eagle for the big expense account.
Service is always friendly and compared to it’s metropolitan counterparts pricewise?
Max is a a bargain.—GordonAnderson