Kevin Marple

Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review: Mr Max Cafe Nippon

Reopened after a makeover, welcome back this Irving Japanese spot.

After a protracted closure for remodeling, Mr Max recently reopened with a slightly altered menu but the same authenticity. You’ll find the same crowd at the L-shaped bar, the same sunken tables under which to slip unshod feet, the same smiling service. Handwritten signs (Japanese characters and English) announce menu items on walls; a handwritten sheet offers daily specials. Order sake and take in the options. They’re izakaya-based and good across a broad range. Something cool and fresh—melting miso-braised eggplant or beads of raw octopus riled with wasabi. A platter of crunchy pickles—purple ume (tart, salted plum), yellow turnip, smoky burdock, peppery white daikon. Takoyaki, octopus dumplings, come out piping hot, topped with takoyaki sauce, bonito shavings, and nori. Sauce-drizzled, with molten centers, they’re blistering bites of goodness. Next, a heartier dive. Maybe miso broth proliferating variations on fish cakes, some edamame- or ginger-studded, others wobbly purplish wedges. Maybe fish from the binchotan grill. Or maybe some of the richest tonkotsu ramen you’ve had, its pure pork schmaltz slicking your lips. Finish with a scoop of intense green tea ice cream, and be glad Mr Max is back.

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