Thrilla from Manila

Max's in Glendale, Calif., promised 60 years of sarap, or good, to the bones. It delivered. With each platter of grilled pork knuckles and fried chicken skin and bowl of Technicolor taro ice cream, the Southern California outpost of the famous Filipino restaurant in the Bay Area provided something delicious to fill our tummies--if not to clog our arteries. The food can be a bit heavy, and one sitting at Max's will meet your salt and cholesterol quota for the month. But you can't forego the crinkly crispiness of the fried chicken skin, softened a bit after a dip in vinegar. I had fun and learned a lot (peanut butter to flavor eggplant and oxtail soup?!) when I relinquished all expectations in the comfy, unpretentious setting where pajama-clad toddlers walked to strangers' tables and peeked at what they were eating. I was also lucky to make my first visit to Max's with Missy, who recommended all the dishes that she loved eating at her parents' house and would be good for us to try. My friends and I were too stuffed to try our hand at karaoke held every Wednesday in the bar. Maybe next time I'll rock out with a mic in one hand and a chicken leg in the other.

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