Max Fish 2nd Annual Tiki Dinner
Ahh, my latest foodie event has come and gone, and now it’s time to recap for you all! I was definitely getting a lot of Instagram love (just recently joined, follow me @CaitPlusAte!) as I live-tweeted and shared the food and drinks I was having during this tasting dinner, which was held this past Thursday evening. The host was Max Fish, one of the excellent restaurants in the Max Restaurant Group of CT and MA. You may have seen it pop up on the blog when I went there for late night happy hour during my 23rd birthday, as well as in this post in which I attended an oyster and wine tasting there, left, and then came BACK for more food during late night happy hour!
After reading my recap of the oyster and wine tasting, the manager of Max Fish, Brian Costa, was kind enough to invite me to a future event. I selected the 2nd Annual Tiki Dinner, 5 courses of food and cocktail pairings. I have never done a multi-course dinner with cocktails, so I was DEFINITELY intrigued. My readers know I love me some classy cocktail imbibing.
My usual foodie companion Jeff and I arrived on time for the event’s start at 6PM, but the first round of drinks was not served until 6:30PM. This annoyed me because I really rushed from work to fight traffic and get to the event on time, but as people trickled in the waiters used the first half hour to ask us if we wanted to purchase any additional drinks before the dinner started. I can understand a restaurant wanting to make additional money off of drinks. Also, it seemed that many of the attendees didn’t show up until 6:30, so starting right at 6 might have made them upset since they’d have missed the first course but been charged the same amount of money as everyone else. Still, I am just a punctual person, and my outlook is if you say an event starts at 6, that’s when it should start. Or, the flyer could have mentioned that the first half hour would be a “cocktail hour” of some kind and include passed appetizers, like the tasting dinner menus at CW’s Chops n Catch do. Just my two cents 🙂
Unfortunately the event was moved from the patio to indoors due to the extreme heat CT was experiencing that day. That bummed me out because I am essentially allergic to AC (AKA it’s always too cold for me) and it also resulted in seating being cafeteria-style at long tables to ensure enough space for everyone. Jeff and I were not fans of that, but we did end up sitting across from a fun couple on a blind date and they were cool to talk to, so it all worked out! OK, I swear this dinner was awesome – I sound like a Negative Nancy right now. Let’s get to the good, and there’s plenty of it.
Course One’s drink was a variation on one of my favorites, the Dark ‘n Stormy, called the Bermuda Triangle. There was a lime “sunk” at the bottom like a “ship” – cute! It also had honey added. I loved the color variation in the presentation and was so excited to take my first sip that I did so without stirring the rum at the top into the drink.
OOPS! After mixing the drink’s ingredients and taking another (cautious) sip, my facial expression certainly changed.
Course One’s dish was a plate of conch fritters with lime-coconut aioli, candied ginger, and hearts of palm.
THIS WAS SO GOOD. The aioli was so amazing, and Jeff and I were both glad that the dish was served with plenty of it. The fritters were way flavorful and the fried exterior didn’t overpower the seafood taste of the interior. The greens were excellent too, even though they weren’t even listed on the menu as a part of the dish – so they made for a nice surprise. I’d never had hearts of palm before but remembered seeing them on Allie’s blog. They were way saltier than I expected but that made for interesting flavor combos on my plate! The Bermuda Triangle also paired well with this dish, especially given the fact that both it and the food had both lime and ginger flavors.
Course Two’s drink was the Tiki Torch, another beverage shrouded in “mystery” to me when I first read the menu since its name gave away nothing about what would be in it.
Based off how it looks, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it was made with rock candy syrup! The crushed ice definitely mimicked the rock candy look. The Tiki Torch also included dark rum, lime juice, and an Italian liqueur Amaro Montenegro. Fancy presentation! Jeff and I loved the glass and the garnish. I also was pleasantly surprised that the drink wasn’t too sweet.
Course Two’s food is brought to you by Instagram, because I’m a bad blogger and forgot to take a photo of it with my camera.
Yup, that’s raw tuna! More specifically, spicy tuna poke of raw tuna, sriacha aioli, mint, avocado, lotus root, and thin sesame crackers. Kinda reminded me of fancy tuna nachos! Of course Max Fish knows how to do tuna. It was so perfect, especially with the sriacha. Both the food and the drink were delicious, but did not necessarily pair together in any particularly noticeable way.
The candied cherry on top of Course Three’s drink, the Red Bitter Mai Tai, was so amazing that I could honestly perhaps call this my favorite drink of the evening BECAUSE of the cherry. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but damn it was good. Max Fish’s take on the mai tai consisted of Sailor Jerry’s rum, triple sec, lime juice, and Campari. It was a bit sweet for my usual tastes (the triple sec had me wary) but I still finished it 😀
Course Three also consisted of my favorite dish of the evening, a sampler of mixed Hawaiian dumplings. Right off the bat I knew I’d love them because of how thin they were. Plenty of filling – the GOOD STUFF! Jeff was accidentally served double of one type of dumpling, but the error was remedied fairly quickly.
The dumpling on white sauce (tahini) had shrimp and chile, the dumpling on orange sauce (kaffir lime sauce) had lobster, and the dumpling on brown sauce (Kahlua sauce) had duck. The center was garnished with a cabbage mix. The duck was by FAR my favorite. I just love duck and how fatty and flavorful it tastes! Its sauce was dynamite too. My favorite sauce, though, was the tahini with the shrimp. The shrimp was far from bland, but compared to the other two fillings, it was the most unique. The lobster was…lobster. How can you go wrong? Each dumpling’s soft texture paired really well with the crunchy cabbage. Again, this food and drink pairing didn’t necessarily “go together” to me, but both were delicious (yup, I used that forbidden word) in their own rights.
The main course’s drink (Course Four) had a self-explanatory name – the Coconut Mojito. Isn’t it beauuuutiful? And so much mint, which I used my straw to “muddle” throughout that lovely tall glass. The coconut flavor wasn’t too much, especially since I muddled in the mint. A perfect balance! Unfortunately I could not finish this drink – I’d already had my fair share. But it actually paired perfectly with every component of the main course. And there were MANY!
Um, yeah. This one was NOT a small plate! Served buffet style…unfortunately I missed the money-shot of the full pig coming out to be carved, but I did catch a shot of the carver in action. He worked quickly and expertly.
Each table went up to fill its plates with Polynesian-roasted suckling pig, grilled pineapple, orange sauce, sticky rice, and steamed buns.
I was sure to get a little bit of everything, as you can see from my plate a couple of photos up. That pig was perfection!!! I loved it with the mojito. I also put some on top of the steamed bun and added the sauce to that combo. Amazing! I want to have a full pork sandwich on a steamed bun. The grilled pineapple was good but definitely overshadowed by the more unique parts of the plate. I don’t even really like rice (it bores me), but the sticky rice had an interesting texture and so much flavor. I’d definitely order it out another time.
The dessert course drink (Course Five) had another self-explanatory name, the Tremont Rum Manhattan. At this point Jeff and I were definitely feelin’ our cocktails, and we took a sip of this guy and looked at each other in shock. Damn, it was strong! We both decided that for our livers and our safety, we probably wouldn’t be able to finish the last round. However, I’m glad I had a few sips with the dessert food because the strong rum paired AMAZINGLY with the sweet cold fusion guava sorbet, edible orchids, and pineapple upside down cake!
Definitely wasn’t blown away by this dish’s presentation, but certainly was by its taste. I dipped the flower in the sorbet and ate that first! It didn’t have much of a taste to it, but a nice crunch, always something that I like. The sorbet was tasty but soooo sweet! My favorite part of the dessert was dipping the cake in the sorbet. It was so spongy and I could definitely taste the pineapple.
Brian, the manager, came by after our meal to make sure we had a good time and enjoyed ourselves. Definitely nice to see! And we certainly had plenty to rave about, so I’m sure he was pleased too. Another successful tasting dinner for me – thanks Brian!
Does it bother you when events don’t start on time?
Which dish would you most want to try? Which cocktail?
Have you ever attended a tiki or luau themed event?