Perfect weather year round, vibrant beaches, bluish ocean, tropical trees, sick surf, and hospitable people is not the only thing Hawaii has to offer the world. Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures and a various amount of cuisines, both contemporary and traditional variations, are widely offered in this place called paradise.
Hawaii birthed it’s own contemporary cuisine in the 90’s called Hawaii Regional Cuisine, which was inspired by the melting pot of cultures that we have. From food from the Hawaiian culture (of course), to Puerto Rican, to Japanese, Chinese, Korean, to Filipino, and more! All in which combined to inspire a very special cuisine that expresses Hawaii through food.
Over the years, Hawaii became known for it’s food and attracted small and large restaurateurs to open up shop on the islands, even international suiters as well, like the Filipino cuisine chain Max’s Of Manila, where we got to eat. And it would be my privilege to share my “food for thought” with you.
Max’s Of Manila, located in the heart of Waipahu, is a filipino restaurant founded in the Philippines as a small little spot to grab some grub. They’ve built a great reputation for their fried chicken. From a small spot, grew into a corporate chain that has made its way over seas internationally, and we are honored to have one in our back yard.
My and my girlfriend decided that some Filipino food would be the choice for our small little dinner date. We haven’t been to Max’s in a while so we thought it would be great to revisit the feeding frenzy.
Arriving there, it was busy. Well, it was a Saturday night, primetime for Filipino parties and a nice place to have dinner. They’re were several parties that was spread across the dining area. We could tell because of the several buffet lines that were set up with party decor. So, initially we though the wait was going to be long (we were hungry!). We placed our name with the friendly hostess and took a seat outside.
Less than 5 minutes into the wait, “Argan, party of two!”. Wow that was quick! It surprised us.
Being seated, blah, blah, blah, would you like something to drink…the typical restaurant service questions. The staff was very good though. Polite, professional, attentive, and prompt. Majority of the staff we of Filipino decent. So, adding to the experience, you get the feel of how the Filipino culture kind of is. That added the authenticity to the restaurant.
After about 5 minutes we ordered a Sampler dish for an appetizer. It contained deep fried calamari, fried squid rings, and Shanghai Lumpia (little fried pork egg roll type appetizer). It was pretty straightforward, deep fried food. It was well prepared though. Tasty, crispy, crunchy, and lovely. It was served with their garlic and vinegar mixture along with a cocktail-type sauce. Thumbs up on that dish and we do recommend it. You get to try three items, so the variety was good!
About 5 minutes into digging into our appetizer, the waiter came to take our order. We ordered a fried tofu dish (I can’t recall what its called), and a dish called Chicken Sisig with a side order of brown rice. You have to get rice with your Filipino meal, it’s a culture staple! In fact it’s the whole island’s staple. That’s our thing, rice. We eat rice with everything.
No more than 10 minutes after we’ve ordered, our dishes came out. QUICK service. I was pretty impressed. But then again, they were trying to turn tables as quick as they could. So, it did seem somewhat of “Hi here’s your food. Hurry up and eat. Thank you and buh-bye”. But it was subtle.
Anyway, our food was very good. The Chicken Sisig dish came out on a sizzling platter, which is always a spectacle in any restaurant. The rest of the food was nice and hot and ready to enjoy. We dug straight in and enjoyed.
Flavor was amazing! (Or was it? I’ll explain in a sec). The food tasted great. The sisig was lovely if you enjoy liver. We love liver, so it was a nice mixture of shredded chicken pieces, onions, celery, a little jalapeño for heat, and they give you a lemon wedge to squeeze over for even more flavor and depth. The flavor was explosive with their little secret sauce that pretty much made the dish. It was little on the heavy side, so very little of it goes a long way. But that didn’t stop us, we almost smacked the whole platter.
The fried tofu dish was a bit on the heavier side as well. The tofu was seemingly deep fried and tossed in what seemed like a mayonnaise-type sauce. Flavor was good as well.
We ate and ate. We almost finished all of our food. And it was a lot of food!
Now, for the reasoning of why we couldn’t stop eating. Well after our feast, we went home bloated. The “need to unbuckle your belt” type bloated. But, what I realized when we got home was the thirst for water. When we reached home, I drank about 32 ounces of water. Usually that much water chugged down, would quench my thirst. Which it did initially. The thing is, about 20 minutes later, I was thirsty again! I chugged down the same amount of water. It satisfied me…for the next 20 minutes. And you guessed it…once again.
After the second cup of water, I concluded what it was that caused my thirst to be seemingly un-quechable. They must us MSG (mono sodium glutamate) in their food. MSG is a food additive to “enhance the flavor” of food. There is some negative speculations out there on the use of MSG in foods.
Certainly, I knew that they use MSG in their food because the only times that I get that thirsty is when there is MSG added into the food I’ve eaten. Some theories say that MSG is a chemical enhancer to the brain. It makes you feel good when you eat it, which tends to make the consumer want to eat more of whatever the food is that contains the MSG. So, it would make sense of the reason for us overeating and not stopping at the point where we were physically good and ate enough to sustain our bodies food needs. I’m not trying to make an excuse for our overeating, I’m just stating the findings and trying to make a possible correlation.
Bottom line, Max’s Of Manilla was good. Great representation of Philippine’s cuisine and culture. But the use of MSG may be one of the reasons why we enjoyed it so much. The cultural ambiance, service, and experience was great. The food is *good*. But now we know why it’s good.
We, ourselves, will probably eat there again, but not so often.