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Oct 20, 2011 09:55 PM

Maximiliano in Highland Park

Maximiliano opened last week, and I finally got in to try it as a real customer, as opposed to F&F.
Many on this board know my liking for Andre Guerrero's cooking, but this is his best effort yet at fine dining, and that term is used advisedly, as this place is as casual and neighborhoody as can be.
Have now tasted his salmon, chicken, and pork chop entrees - all 3 are winners.
Well, you say, those are not exactly the 3 most challenging bases for entrees either.
And you would be right - however, that chicken dish, and even more so, that pork chop, are sensational.
And priced in the mid-teens, they are an even better value.
Any one who remembers Andre's risottos at Max in Sherman Oaks should run to 5930 York Blvd to try his veal/saffron risotto, or his porcini risotto. While currently only appetizers, priced in the $7-8 range, they can be ordered as entrees, either of which would be highly recommendable.
The pizzas are very tasty, even though I have only tried one, the fennel and sausage version, which at least rivals a somewhat similar version at you know where on Melrose & Highland.
Wine list nearly exclusively Italian, with both a rosso and a French Fleurie available by the glass in the $8-$11 range.
Decent beer list, yet not being a major beer lover, I will defer my opinions to others.
Really nicely done renovation of a former Mexican restaurant which you would never ever think of.
Patio to open by year's end, btw.
5930 York Blvd., not far from Figueroa
Highland Park

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  1. Dang - this sounds great!

    I was SO sad when his breakfast spot did not open up on Verdugo, this might console my troubled soul. And tummy!

    The Verdugo Bar
    3408 Verdugo Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90065

    1. Went on opening night and it was already hopping. Really enjoyed it, a great addition to the hood. Still wondering if those were HPers coming out of the woodwork, or if they were mostly from ER.

      5 Replies
      1. re: pley

        Andre said last night that many people were actually walking to the restaurant.
        Apparently many people in the food business live in HP, and really appreciate the fact that they now have a decent place with minimal to no driving involved.
        happybaker, note: next door that bakery concept may happen over time, yet not now.

        1. re: carter

          wonder where those HPers are hanging out the rest of the time.

          1. re: pley

            Driving to Eagle Rock, Downtown or Pasadena, probably.

          2. re: carter

            Carter - the pizza's look great and if there's even a CHANCE that a bakery with some breakfast stuff might happen, oh, I'll be an even happier baker : )

            1. re: carter

              Having worked in the industry and actually grew up there its become a hotbed for young people to live but don't have high paying jobs as its still relatively cheap to live there.

              Now living in Arcadia, much further out from West LA I am glad a decent Italian joint has finally opened!

          3. It's a great neighborhood addition. Not on the level of a Mozza or Drago (and not as expensive) -- I wouldn't urge someone from Santa Monica, for instance, to drive all the way out just to try it. But if you're in the neighborhood, or if you live here, it's fantastic. We had a really good potato-spinach-ricotta pizza, a burrata appetizer, meatballs, and a pretty good cavatelli pasta with pancetta and squid. Dining there it was hard to believe I was in Highland Park.

            Drago Restaurant
            2628 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403

            2 Replies
            1. re: webb

              Agree on all points. Not meant to be a destinational restaurant, but a neighborhood place that is better than you should expect.
              I thought the meatballs were not all that wonderful, btw., even though others at my table thought them to be quite tasty.
              But I will gladly drive from Sherman Oaks to Highland Park, as Maximiliano is better than any Italian place here, where every operator is serving the same 10 items, and not all that well.

              1. re: carter

                Tonight, friends spirited me from Sherman Oaks to Highland Park to try out this gem! Only later did I find out that it was owned by Max, previously of Sherman Oaks! I enjoyed "Max" in its heyday and was delighted with my meal tonight.

                It's a comfortable, hip space, not too noisy and with a comfortable seat. There are normal tables and a communal table in the center of the room, as well as an eating bar for seating. Thankfully reservations were accepted and honored!

                My appetizer was baked polenta pomodoro with gorgonzola. It was such a nice blend of flavor and texture, I wanted to lick the empty dish! Others had the risotto and the meatballs, all good! Main dish was their delicious pork chop. What a great value for an outstanding piece of meat. The sauce was a bit sweet, but yummy. I tasted the salmon piccata, it was also very good. We didn't sample the pizza, nor try a salad, but I would definitely try the Roasted Italian Squashes or the Baked Fennel on my return trip.

                The lemon tart or their version of cream brulee were good, the cannoli also looked good at the next table. Service was quick, the kitchen's only hiccup was running out of decaf coffee. If that's the worst occurence with only one week in business, I'd say they're doing it right! I hope Max will someday consider opening a branch back here in Sherman Oaks!

            2. Planning on going tonight with a friend who is leaving for China for an extended amount of time. He wanted something that you wouldn't easily find in China and I know even in "cosmopolitan" Hong Kong its either crappy or so expensive it hurts.

              So we are both guys and we can eat a decent amount. How many dishes should we order?

              I was thinking of 2-3 starters, a pizza, and two mains (either pasta or meat). Would it be considered glutinous to order more?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Johnny L

                Well, if the pork chop will be an entree selection, then you will probably have too much food, even for big eaters. The chicken is a medium sized entree, and the pastas tend toward moderate size, meant for one only and none to take home.
                Pizzas are of the moderate size.
                The Risottos are not generous portions, and if splitting one is planned, you will be fine.
                If you each want a risotto, then you will also have a major quantity of food as it sits quite heavily.
                The roasted fennel was very tasty, and I can only imagine any roasted root vegetable will also be very good, yet once again, fairly heavy, but definitely worthy of sharing.

                1. re: carter

                  thanks, I'll probably go moderate on the ordering since its only 2 of us. Will report back later.

              2. Went last night and I liked it. As somebody mentioned above, its definitely not a destination restaurant but more of a "Finally a decen Italian joint opens up in the hood!". I'm glad Guerrero decided to open up in Highland Park and I will definitely be back to patronize his new establishment.

                What we ordered:

                Creamy polenta - came in a mini dutch oven sitting in tomato sauce, was very light and creamy yet did not break apart too easily so the dish wasn't all mush.

                Caprese salad - the cheese was creamy but a bit blad, cherry tomatoes and the croutons made up for it though.

                mushroom and sausage pizza - great crust but mushrooms were too burnt and somewhat difficult to eat since it would eventually get soggy from being a super thin crust but the outer crust was rolled super thick so I would have liked for the outer crust to have been thin so I could have at least folded the pizza but its not that big a deal to me and I would order pizza again in the future.

                Spaghetti and meatballs - meatballs had a good texture but I was hoping for a stronger, maybe beefier flavor. Either way it was way better than any crappy "family" run joint in the area.

                Chicken ravioli - really liked the touch of truffle butter which was present but subtle. Not a fan of over use so I wecolmed the restraint of use.

                Had two glasses of wine and total came to roughly $80 before tip so not too bad and we were pretty full. Overall a good meal and I will be back, hoping once he gets comfortable he starts adding specials to spice things up. Not that I don't like simplified menus I would like to see what else he can do in this space.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Johnny L

                  Glad you enjoyed, and would return. I agree with your assessment of the menu, and its selections, or somewhat lack of selections.

                  I agree also that the meatball did lack a beefiness taste, yet was very good texturally.

                  I had the saffron risotto, and would order that every time it is so good. Could easily be split for a couple of bites for 2 people.

                  I note no dessert was ordered, and the entree was the ravioli.

                  Assuming no dietary restrictions, you should try the chicken or the pork chop next time, the latter being very splittable. Hope you saw the size of the portion when being brought to a nearby table.

                  Veggies also a requisite, but, priorities, priorities, priorities!!!

                  1. re: carter

                    Yes I wanted to order everything but it was just two of us and we were pretty full by the end of the pasta.

                    Next time I will probably try a carne course and save room for desert but skip on the pizza so I can have more starters.