There’s a new restaurant in town, right on Boston’s “Restaurant Row” in the Back Bay. Max Brenner Boston is a new chocolate-themed restaurant designed to entice all your senses and indulge even the biggest sweet-tooth’s desires.
Max Brenner, also known as “The Bald Man,” calls what he does a “chocolate culture.” In the early ‘90s, Brenner started his chocolate career by working throughout Europe as an apprentice to some of the most renowned pastry chefs and chocolate experts in the world. While in Paris, he also encountered some of the leading fashion designers, sparking in him a creative interest in design and aesthetics as well. By the late ‘90s, Brenner had his own small workshop where he began to offer his wild chocolate creations. His new vision was to expand the experience of chocolate beyond taste to an emotional experience that encompasses what chocolate symbolizes to people in their lives. Over the next decade, Brenner opened a series of restaurants both internationally and stateside, finally opening his 36th location right here in Beantown at 745 Boylston St. at the end of March.
I popped in for dinner on a Monday evening, eager to see this “chocolate culture” for myself. As a self-proclaimed chocoholic and foodie, the promise of a whole chocolate experience drew me like a moth to a flame. The second I pulled open the large double doors, the scent of warm chocolate wafted out–an excellent beginning! My guest and I were sat immediately, and took a few minutes to check out the walls of lab beakers filled with chocolate chips, the pipes labeled “100 percent pure chocolate” criss-crossing the ceiling and the walls painted with Hershey bars, Oreos and hearts. It’s as if a room from Willy Wonka’s factory was plunked down right here in the city.
We are given two menus, one with appetizers and dinner items and the other with desserts and drinks. I order the Berry Nutty Professor (peanut liqueur, Frangelico, Chambord and milk chocolate served on the rocks and garnished with a chocolate strawberry; $11.50), which is possibly the best drink I’ve ever had. My guest orders a fruit-flavored Brazilian Breezer (acai liqueur, cranberry juice and guava nectar; $11.95) and we dig into appetizers of Chicken, Bacon & Cheddar Rolls ($12.95; individual $7.25) and a tower of Black & Tan Beer Battered Vidalia Onion Rings with, yes, dark chocolate ranch dipping sauce ($6.95).
For dinner, we order the Brenner Burger Maxed Out with American Kobe beef, which comes with waffle fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder and served with a pickle ($15.95), and the Tostones Alla Marie, a grilled steak with plantains and rice and beans ($18.25). I complement my burger, which melts in my mouth, with a Banana Split Martini served in a stemless glass over crushed ice ($12.95). It comes on a platter with a beaker of extra martini and a small bowl of cut bananas and whipped cream dusted with powdered sugar. It’s certainly the most interesting drink presentation I’ve seen, and bonus points for the small beaker of additional martini.
Although I’m stuffed at this point, not ordering dessert would be a crime. As I flip through pages of international hot chocolates, milkshakes, fondues, cakes and ice cream, I decide on a Suckao, a small, dense, concentrated shot of rich chocolate ($5.25). Another platter comes over, this time filled with a small cup of cream being heated over a candle, a bowl of dark chocolate chips, and a metal spoon used to spoon in and melt as much or as little dark chocolate as you’d like to add. My guest has an Eighties Milkshake made with milk chocolate ganache and vanilla bourbon ice cream ($7.95), served in a “drink me” glass reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland,” keeping the whimsical theme alive through the very end of the meal.
As we leave, we pass through the gift shop where you can purchase homemade candies, cookbooks, t-shirts, body lotions, and a whole host of other products. A staff member offers us a sample praline, and I summon strength to find room for one more bite in my very full stomach, and am of course glad I did. I would be sluggishly dragging my feet back to my car after a meal like that if I weren’t practically vibrating on a sugar rush.
Max Brenner has won me over. Conveniently located in the Back Bay, it is accessible to both parking garages and public transportation. Entrees are all under $30, pretty reasonably priced for downtown Boston, and there wasn’t a thing I tried that I didn’t enjoy. I loved the nostalgic feeling of childhood favorites remembered and reinterpreted into this modern experience, and will gladly meet you there for a milkshake anytime.
Max Brenner, 745 Boylston St., Boston, 617-274-1741, www.maxbrenner.com