The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.
A recent meal at the newly expanded Maxwell’s in downtown Islip was an eye-opener. While the pub's owner's, Lessing's, may have invested much in the addition of a lovely new room with a big communal table, the company apparently hasn't put much thought into the dishes on the pub's newly revised menu.
Take, for example the promising-sounding Food Truck Tacos. The menu description of fish tacos ($15) lists “mahi-mahi, mango coulis, black bean salsa, handmade corn tortillas” but says nothing about the rice pilaf lurking underneath cubes of Cajun-spice-coated seared fish. I inquired about where those handmade tortillas had originated -- in the restaurant's kitchen or elsewhere -- and was told they weren't actually handmade but placed on the grill “by hand.”
Condiments, arranged in a compartmentalized dish, looked pretty enough, but that mango coulis was the equivalent of sweet mango preserves. And there was precious little black bean salsa provided -- certainly not enough to give the three fish and rice tacos any moisture. A third compartment held a few shreds of lettuce. Fish tacos need some kind of slaw. And, maybe, a spicy mayo. Certainly not rice pilaf. Or jam.
Another case of a dish gone awry was a chopped salad ($10.25) of greens with dried cranberries, golden raisins and pecans topped, inexplicably, with fresh mozzarella and dressed with a sweetish tropical vinaigrette. Not great but, so far, not terrible. The discordant note came from a liberal shower of pungent grated Asiago cheese. Did the person who put that salad together ever take the time to taste it?
On the upside: An appetizer of rare seared tuna with wasabi cream and seaweed salad ($10.95); it was fresh, simple, appealing.
Hard to believe that this restaurant is under the umbrella of the same corporation that owns View, newly reopened in Oakdale, and Mirabelle in Stony Brook. Yes, I know that those two restaurants exist in a pricier realm. Still -- as a taco from any of Long Island's authentic little Mexican spots reveal -- you don’t have to spend a lot to have a clue.
Maxwell’s is at 501 Main St., Islip, 631-210-0011, maxwellsny.com.