Max & Dylan's Kitchen & Bar

From the owners of Scollay Square, another fine bar-restaurant that does everything fairly well
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  July 15, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

GOOD CATCH: The Maine lobster roll is a reliable remake of a standard item with lots of lobster meat and truly superb French fries.

Max & Dylan’s Kitchen & Bar | 15 West Street, Boston | 617.423.3600 | Open Monday–Wednesday, 11:30 am–10 pm; Thursday–Saturday, 11:30 am–11 pm; and Sunday, 10 am–9 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access to some tables | Validated parking discounts at Hyatt Regency garage, $10 weekends, $2 weeknights.
Who is Max? Who is Dylan? The casual visitor cannot know. We know that the owners also have Scollay Square (which is not located in what used to be that square), so we have our suspicions that Max and Dylan are children or cats, or a confected evocation of the contrasting merits of ethnicity and cool. The menu has a bit of everything, and is mostly enjoyable, especially when potatoes are involved. The same is true of Scollay Square — the restaurant, not the location of Boston's old burlesque district, which is now City Hall.

Because it's a bar, the first course here really is drinks, so let's take a look at that. The mixed options include both classic versions and variations. So you could have a real martini ($11) or a watermelon martini ($11) with sugar in it. The Bacardi mojito ($9) is described as "traditional" and tastes like the original blend of white rum, mint, and simple syrup. The side car ($10) departs from the typical cognac/Cointreau/lemon-juice recipe with the fairly common additions of Tuaca and sour mix. The trouble with that is you end up with a drink that is both apparently sweeter and more astringent than the classic.

The wine list also has a decent selection. A glass of 2005 St. Francis Merlot ($10; $44/bottle) had the structure and spice I hoped for from this old Sonoma favorite.

On to food: arborio-crusted calamari ($9.50) is terrifically fried, but I'm not sure what the traditional risotto rice adds to the breading. Slices of banana pepper and halves of grape and pear tomatoes are very nice, as is some spicy mayonnaise. Steamed edamame ($7.50) are green soybeans in the shell, with a clever coating of teriyaki sauce and black sesame seeds. A few slices of pickled ginger reference a sushi bar without actual sushi. And Vidalia-onion soup ($6.50) is the usual beef-stock, mushy-toast, melty-cheese fun, with extra points because the broth isn't over-salted.

Like the drinks, macaroni and cheese comes in classic and modernized versions: regular ($9.50), or with Buffalo chicken ($12), lobster ($15), or prosciutto ($13). The last doesn't conform to the creamy custard style, having instead chewy spirals of cavatelli with a few crumbs and just enough prosciutto for the flavor. Kobe-beef loaf ($18) is a really silly idea, since the clean-tasting subtlety and richness of Japanese-style beef is pointless in a peppery meat loaf — you really get more flavor from cheap stuff. But we don't eat ideas; we eat what the waitress puts in front of us, and this is a fine platter of comfort food: soft, with perfect mashed potatoes, gravy, and just-right green beans. Grilled salmon ($16) comes as a lovely fillet with a bit of citrus glaze, more mashed potatoes, and splendid late-season asparagus. Nothing avant garde, but good eating.

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