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Maxwell's silver (fork)

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POSTED: May 2, 2012 9:03 a.m.
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Prosciutto-stuffed chicken breast entree at Maxwell's.

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With a convenient location between City Market and the Civic Center, Maxwell’s is poised to appeal to the pre– and post–event audiences that tread this popular path along Jefferson Street.

The menu is a collection of small plates: salads, vegetarian choices and a collection of more hearty beef and chicken dishes. Many prices fall under the $10 mark.

Ms. T.J. joined me on this outing and selected a prosciutto–stuffed Ashley Farms organic chicken breast as her main course, following a traditional Caesar salad opening plate.

The chicken could not have been better: tender, moist and the cheese and prosciutto filling was creamy and inviting. The chicken itself was seasoned well, adding a pleasing layer of flavor to a dish that exhibited care in preparation and forethought in its design.

I selected the beet and fennel salad — a bed of spring mix topped with bits of beet and roasted julienne of fennel. It is a nice mix of crisp and tender, tart and sweet.

Prior to service, I received a small plate of “drunken tomatoes,” a half dozen or so grape tomatoes that are dipped by the diner into a ramekin of vodka and then rolled in salt. That was a fun touch, and a refreshing but not–to–heavy hors d’ uvre.

For my “main” small plate, I chose Wagyu beef carpaccio with the restaurant’s sweet raisin soy–ginger sauce. I love Wagyu, with its lacy marbling and gentle flavor, and chose the dish to satisfy that craving. Instead, I found my paper–thin beef swimming in the sauce, which was all I could taste.

Chef James Parker and I talked about his preparation after dinner and I believe you will see this dish presented differently. He’s a talented young man whose first solo venture is really giving him the chance to expand his culinary chops.

The only other miscue was regarding the menu. Ms. T.J. ordered gratin potatoes with her chicken but received fingerling potatoes and asparagus. Chef James explained that he did not like the appearance of the original side dish and substituted. I appreciate that, but we should have tipped off by the server.

Guests around us, including several out–of–towners, raved about their food and the experience — rightfully so. The remodel is stunning — Southern grace meets comfortable elegance.

The owners take an active role on the floor and warmly check on guests and greet new arrivals. That kind of personal engagement is a touch that sets Maxwell’s apart from its competitors.

The small wine list is perfectly functional for the menu, but I would suggest frequent changes in the line–up to keep regulars interested.

We skipped dessert, but on a previous visit I had tasted Chef James’ house–made white chocolate panna cotta with cherries. What a truly decadent and creamy treat!

109 Jefferson St./349–5878

 

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