Highland Park is pretty cool. There are rad little galleries popping up, neat shops, and some really great restaurants in the area now. Driving down York Blvd you definitely get that vibe, these new cool culinary spots practically waving to you as you drive by. We were in the area one night and were coming up on Figueroa on York when this corner building practically jumped in front of our car to get us to look at it. We did look at it, its red and white walls and bright green accents housing a bustling crowd of diners: it looked inviting like a friend’s apartment whose space you always covet. We were so curious what it was because it looked so cool but we didn’t have the time to stop and investigate. We retired the obsession to only speaking about how neat the place looked for months. Last week, we actually went into the restaurant for a dinner with a friend: the place is Maximiliano, Highland Park’s fairly new–and fantastic–Italian restaurant.
Now. First we should speak about the space. Maximiliano is possibly the coolest, most well designed restaurant in the city. As you can tell, it’s obviously themed around Italy and Italian cuisine. Lines of white on red lines squiggle all around, making abstract spagettis everywhere. Mirroring that are the lights, which are a tangle of cords and hanging bulbs, all of which are–you know–like spaghetti. To capture the idea of Italian pride and the Italian flag, above the kitchen is a bright green slotted fixture, obscuring lights and other technical things and tying the red and white walls to the Italian flag. Their branding, too, is even impeccable and simple: a simple red circled M with the name and location within it. It looks quite nice and kind of like you want to live there. They did an excellent job with creating a near perfect dining space.
Onward to the food and drinks! The drinks were great, carrying lots of great wines (that come in glass, carafe, and bottle–we had the Sangiovese, which was great…and cheap!) and really interesting, local beers (one was a dark beer that looked like Guinness but tasted like…orange juice? It was a really, really unique beer). We started our meal with two appetizers: the “Burrata, heirloom cherry tomato, parsley, roasted shallot, balsamic, olive oil, crostini” and the meatballs.
The Burrata is a deconstructed and reimagined caprese salad. The Burrata itself is incredibly creamy and decadent, the tomatos are skinned and juicy, all sitting in a nice little bath of balsamic with crostini for you to eat with. This was an excellent little starting dish; however, note that the Burrata is very rich. If you even have a hint of lactose intolerance, this will throw you for a loop for a few days (speaking from experience, everyone!). The meatballs were undoubtedly the best meatballs I’ve had in town. Rich and flavorful and simple–no bells and whistles to it: just meat in a pomodoro sauce. They were fantastic!
The entrees were a bit of a tough decision because everything looked really great. They have pizzas, which we did not get, as well as pasta and plates. Nothing on the menu is intimidating like some Italian restaurants can make it, forcing you to pronounce impossible words and then arriving as something completely different than advertised. No: Maximiliano is very cut and dry in the best way possible. No false advertising!
We had two things, the Chicken Ravioli and the Pan Roasted Chicken, both of which were excellent. The Chicken Ravioli is one of those “Well, dang: this is a small dish!” dishes but–like a good plating–it’s actually quite perfect for you. The disc like raviolis were very soft and pillowy and were in a really deliciously rich cream sauce that was like a birthing pool for the ravioli: it was buttery and truffley, while also being very light. The ravioli itself was filled with light chicken, hinting back at the truffle flavor in the bath provided. The Pan Roasted Chicken was a clever take on Chicken Marsala, which I did not realize until it arrived, covered in a few mushrooms and a marsala sauce on a bed of spinach and fingerling potatoes. The chicken is stacked on top of each other to make a discreet little tower of juicy chicken. The first chicken is very marsala-y, absorbing sauce and mushrooms–simple delicious. However, the second chicken was a bit overdone on the salt for whatever reason, likely absorbing the saltiness of everything around it. It was definitely still a great dish–just a little too salty at points.
Maximiliano is definitely a restaurant that you should bookmark to check out. It isn’t that pricey, it is totally Metro accessible, it looks great, it serves great food, and is unique in that it’s totally simple and unpretentious. If you’d like to surprise someone with a great, understated meal and dining experience, this is the place to take them.