You shouldn’t believe everything you read. If you did, you’d think Max’s Restaurant was built by an army of fried chicken pieces. Of course, it wasn’t – that would be insane – but the words ‘The Restaurant that Fried Chicken Built’ do at least give some indication of what you’re letting yourself in for. However, this cult Filipino restaurant is more than just a knock-off KFC. Yes, fried chicken is prevalent on the menu, but so are all the Filipino favourites, from sisig and kare-kare to pancit.

Besides, a run-of-the-mill fast-food restaurant wouldn’t put a neighbouring McDonald’s to shame quite as spectacularly as Max’s has done in Karama. When I visited on a cool Wednesday night, Max’s outdoor terrace was packed with Filipinos hunched over colourful noodles, soups and chicken, while the Golden Arches next door was empty by comparison.

I managed to snag a table outside and was soon joined by a menu-wielding waiter, and a flurry of enthusiastic recommendations. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for fried chicken, so chose the chicken platter with seafood noodles and plain rice. I also ventured into more traditional territory with an order of sisig (ground chicken liver and heart, in the absence of pork) and a plate of camaron rebosado (battered shrimp). Having diligently scribbled down my order, the waiter returned, with sadness in his eyes, to inform me that I’d have to wait 10 minutes for my food. I assured him this wasn’t a problem, and it wasn’t: my food arrived in five.

Fried chicken may have built this restaurant, but there was nothing particularly special about it. It wasn’t bad – it was warm and tasty, and not at all dry – but I think I was expecting a dash of South-East Asian spice. The seafood noodles were the biggest disappointment – though full of flavour, they were served lukewarm. The camaron rebosado (aka crispy, warm prawn lollipops) served with sweet chilli dipping sauce turned out to be a guilty treat. More exciting, however, was the sisig. I haven’t had great deal of luck with this dish in the past, and was pleased to find it prickling with a generous sprinkling of roughly chopped green chillies, onions and garlic, which also offered a welcome crunchy contrast to the soft chicken liver.

On this evidence, there’s more to Max’s than fried chicken, and the balance between fast-food and authentic fare has an appeal that extends beyond the Filipino faithful. Converts can also look forward to a second venue opening in Sharjah.

The bill (for one)
1x Chicken platter
1x Chicken sisig Dhs28
1x Camaron rebosado Dhs32
Total (excluding service) Dhs90