Some things seem like odd pairings. Oil and water. Champagne and popcorn. A Red Sox cap with a Yankees T-shirt. Yet when opposites are matched, the results can be surprisingly interesting. (Champagne and popcorn, for example.)
Which is why on a recent chilly night, we were anxious to try the Philly cheese-steak spring rolls with chipotle ketchup ($9) at the suburban outlet of Max & Dylans, part of the Legendary Restaurant Group. The appetizer seemed an intriguing mix of Asian cuisine, Mexican dash, and streetwise savvy.
Alas, the parts didn’t jell: The spring roll dough had a sheen of grease, the meat was lackluster, and the tart ketchup couldn’t save the dish. Sadly, the appetizer set the tone for a meal big on promise and short on delivery.
A shame, because Max & Dylans lights up what seems to be a particularly desolate stretch of the Middlesex Turnpike, with its Art Deco bright lights and cheerful interior lighting up the winter night.
For non-locals, it can be tricky to find, and it doesn’t help that information on the bill places the location in Billerica, while the address is listed as Bedford. The waitress explained that the restaurant, which opened in August, is “on the line” between the two municipalities. Tell that to your GPS.
The evening began well. The service was excellent — friendly and efficient — and a manager, noticing we kept our hats on, rushed over to explain that repairs on the roof were causing a chill and that he would take care of this. Which he did. And although the restaurant is spacious, the placement of tables and booths creates pockets of intimacy.
Over beers and drinks, we sampled the blackened scallops ($10.50) with orange-horseradish sauce, an attractive dish that was fine and simple. Better was the creamy oven-roasted goat cheese with tomato sauce and nicely crisp ciabatta.
Other appetizers include steamed shrimp dumplings ($8.50), grilled kielbasa ($8.50), steamed edamame ($7.50), and flash-fried chicken fingers ($9), the selection reflecting the mix ‘n’ match nature of the Max & Dylans style.
The cool temperatures called for comfort food, and Max & Dylans has a variety of newly hip macaroni and cheese dishes, ranging in price from $9.50 to $14. You can sample Mom’s favorite with lobster, hot dogs, prosciutto, or buffalo chicken. We opted for the baby spinach and artichoke mac and cheese ($14), but the limp spinach and bits of artichokes did little to brighten what tasted exactly like those boxes of mac and cheese that got you through college.
For an entrée, we sampled the drunken chicken ($16), which had artichokes, tomato, Romano cheese, and rice. Drunken chicken is a traditional Asian dish in which the chicken is first steeped in wine or distilled liquor — hence the drunken part. Here, the chicken seemed neither drunk nor sober, just plastered with tomato sauce, a fusion that didn’t quite connect.
Other entrées include steak tips, salmon fillet, and swordfish, all $16, plus prime rib ($18) and chipotle-glazed kobe meatloaf ($21).
Max & Dylans features a selection of sliders, ranging from $9 to $14. We sampled the BBQ pork sliders ($9) – three cute little buns with a zesty taste and heft, the best choice of the evening.
Also offered are a number of flatbread pizzas; we tried the simple margarita, with mozzarella cheese, tomato, and fresh basil ($12). It was frustrating — you could sense the fresh tomato, the wonderful aroma of fresh basil, but they were halted by a layer of saltiness that spoiled the effect. This can be a great dish — indeed, I made a trip to the Max & Dylans in its Charlestown location to try the margarita flatbread pizza for comparison and was able to sink my teeth into its cheesy, basil-scented goodness. So, dudes, easy on the shaker.
To finish, we shared a red velvet cake ($9) with creamy icing that was well presented and satisfied the sweet tooth.