Max London’s is class, down to the bone. There’s no veneer, no facade, no upscale phoniness.
It’s sleek and polished, not snooty or put-on. There’s an open kitchen in the rear, sky-high ceilings and brick wall in the main dining area, an elegant long bar and, in contrast to the stark decor, a glamorous Rococo mirror behind. “I like the lighting fixtures,” said Ann Marie, noting the glowing pendants that marked the length of the bar.
Go early, or make a reservation. While I prefer to talk to a person, no one answered the phone, so I made mine online through Open Table. The dining room took no time at all to fill up on a weeknight.
Their table bread is from Mrs. London’s, of course, and the baguette and whole-grain had integrity, in all senses of the word. They were tangy, delicious, with crusts you can really gnaw on.
I started with creamy tomato soup ($8), a serving so large it could have served as a meal. It’s thick, but not not heavy, with bits of tomato pulp and chopped herbs. The croutons had the right dimensions and enough crunch, and the chiffonade of basil garnish was a welcome taste of summer.
Ann Marie quizzed the server and came away with a recommendation for the garlic shrimp and squid appetizer ($14). It’s easy to think scampi, but it’s not that at all. The big, fat shrimp were perfectly cooked and the squid was “not overly chewy,” according to Ann Marie, who added, “it has a great flavor to it.” We both liked the sauce. There was a bit of smokiness and just enough bite — perhaps chipotle with red pepper oil? “The sauce coats the spoon,” she observed. “It’s not pure oil and the garlic isn’t overpowering,” said the girl who loves to cook.
Asparagus and peas represented the early vegetables in the spring risotto ($24). Along with sliced portobello mushroom and onion, corn cut from a roasted cob added so much flavor. The asparagus was cooked just enough and the risotto was expertly prepared. The rice retained the requisite chew and its creaminess served as just enough sauce to hold it all together. A little bunch of micro greens atop finished the dish. Very well done.
Ann Marie was delighted with her mushroom pizza (regularly $16, on special for $9), with a cracked egg on top. “It has all my favorite things,” she said, “egg, cheese, mushrooms.” I could smell the truffle oil straight away, but Ann Marie said the flavor was not overpowering. “Take this,” she said, handing over a slice for me to heft. “It’s heavy.” The Taleggio cheese is soft with a strong smell but mild flavor, and “it’s creamy. It melts like a dream,” she said. The crust is thin, with bubbles, browned on the bottom. “They do a good job,” she concluded.
I was sorry to see that Mrs. London’s bakery next door closed before we finished our meal. But the restaurant offers terrific homemade desserts of its own, in addition to some of hers. We ordered zeppoles ($12), to share.
Theirs are so much more than fried dough, they are cakelike but not dense, and they were just out of the fryer, then tossed in cinnamon sugar. “They look like little potatoes,” said Ann Marie, adding, “they’re nice cause they’re not perfect.” Each one had a little bump that showed where they fell off the spoon into the oil.
They come with two dipping sauces, salted caramel and an orange cream with bits of orange peel. The caramel was too sweet for me when taken with the sugared dessert, but I liked the salty flavor of it, and I really liked the creamy orange sauce. We each ate two and took two home. The server packed them both with little cups of each kind of sauce.
And London’s supplied a capacious sturdy paper bag with handles for leftovers. Even the table bread was packed in a sturdy plastic box. Thanks. I’ll reuse both.
By this time the restaurant was in full swing and we were ready for the check. The cost of the meal, before tax and tip, came to $71.69.
It was a wonderful meal and a very pleasant experience. We had excellent, expertly prepared food served capably in a comfortable, stylish environment, and were sent off with neatly packed leftovers and good memories. How can you do better than that?
Max London’s Restaurant
WHERE: 466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs;518-587-0505; maxlondonsrestaurantcom
WHEN: 3 to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $71.69 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express. ADA compliant. Parking on street or in municipal lots. Reservations at opentable.com.