(photo credit: PR)
Max Brenner has been a remarkable Israeli success story. Starting as one chocolate shop in 2000, it now has a factory in Beit Shemesh, with eight restaurants cum outlet stores throughout the country, as well as in the United States, Asia, Australia and Europe.
The Max Brenner restaurants are constantly updating their menus, and they have recently revamped their business lunch offerings. Both the English and Hebrew menus bear the heading in English: Max's Business and Pleasure Lunch Menu.
The lunches, served Monday to Thursday from noon to 5 p.m., fall into two rather whimsically named categories: Max’s Optimistic Lunches and Max’s Favorite Lunches. All lunches comprise an appetizer, main course, beverage and dessert for one fixed price: the Optimistic Lunch is NIS 49 and the Favorite Lunch is NIS 54.
All lunches start with a complimentary bread basket: two fresh rolls topped with white and black sesame seeds, served with soft butter. They go well with any of the choices of appetizer: soup of the day, eggplant with tehina, cheese poppers, antipasti or chopped vegetable salad.
The cheese poppers – like falafel balls of rich cheese in a yogurt sauce – are practically addictive. We were sorry there were only three.
The baba ganoush, meanwhile, was smooth and creamy, with just the right proportion of roasted eggplant to tehina. Our soup of the day was velvety sweet potato, given a nice boost of flavor with croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.
Many of the main courses reflect Asian influences. The manager recommended the stir-fried chicken and vegetables with rice. The chicken was tasty and the portion quite generous, in a sauce that was on the sweet side.
His other recommendation was one of the two tortilla wraps on the menu, stuffed with chicken, avocado, crispy onions, lettuce and tomato.
Although we expected this dish to have a Mexican flair, the chili aioli was reminiscent of Thai sweet chili sauce.
Still, it was very enjoyable.
The dessert included with the business lunch is a miniature version of the Max Brenner creation called Milky Max Cookies: milk chocolate cream, cookies in nougat, white chocolate chips, whipped cream, crunchy waffle balls and hot toffee. All these ingredients add up to over-thetop sweetness.
Max Brenner offers five specialty cocktails – three cold and two hot – all chocolate-based, so they are more appropriate with dessert. The Chiapas (NIS 39) – frozen white chocolate with wild berries, crême de cassis and vodka – is in itself a drinkable dessert that packs a bit of a punch.
No visit to Max Brenner is complete without thumbing through the restaurant’s book of Sweets and Drinks – pages and pages of the creations of someone who built an empire out of chocolate. The manager recommended we try one of the crêpes brûlées (NIS 52), which are the classic thin pancake with a delicate crust of caramelized sugar. We sampled the white chocolate cheesecake crêpe, which was every bit as decadent as it sounds. It was accompanied by vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate and fruit salad, which came close to overkill.
Among the drinks in the book – which contains a page of vegan desserts – are familiar beverages served in unique cups exclusive to Max Brenner. The Hug Mug is meant to be held with two hands while drinking Max Brenner’s signature hot chocolates, while the Kangaroo Cup is a mug for coffee with a side pouch that contains squares of chocolate that melt from the heat of the drink, creating a reservoir for making mocha.
Max Brenner is gearing up for winter by introducing new menu items featuring strawberries – especially chocolate fondue, ideal for dipping the fruit and marshmallows.
While the restaurant as a whole is not certified kosher, the dessert bar, where the sweets and drinks are prepared, is kept separate from the kitchen, where the meals are prepared. Moreover, the outlet store sells only products from the Max Brenner factory in Beit Shemesh, which is certified kosher.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher (restaurant only; factory outlet store is kosher)
30 Hashaham Street, Petah Tikva
Tel: (03) 633-5373