First snippet of groundbreaking news: upon entering this restaurant, I knew that I could only achieve salvation if I converted my religion to Brennerism. I have seen the light.
Second snippet: I actually managed to attend lunch here with someone who owned a working camera -- finally, I get to post photos of my own (or at least Margo's)!
So here goes the deluge of photos. Prepare yo'self.
As soon as you walk into Max Brenner, here is what you see: a large glass case of beautiful chocolates and truffles arranged aesthetically on printed trays; decadent gift boxes the size of a beagle and filled to the brim with chocolate novelties; a sign on the wall that proclaims "VERY MUCH CHOCOLATE"; a gigantic vat -- like a narrow, deep kiddie pool -- filled with melted milk chocolate and connected to an intricate framework of dark brown pipes. The pipes are this color because, of course!, they are filled with 100% chocolate, and they transport the chocolate you see at the front of the restaurant up through a tangled nest of pipes under the ceiling and back into the kitchen. Take note:
T-shirts for sale in the boutique up front:
One of the many kinds of artisan chocolates for sale:
Believe it or not, though, Max Brenner has more to offer than just plain, straight-up chocolate. So upon sitting down at our table, we were handed giant glossy lunch menus. To drink, each of us essentially decided that any hope of being nutritionally conscious was shot to hell, so we each chose one of Mr. Brenner's many variations on the classic hot chocolate (Andrew got toffee, I got hazelnut, Tess got spicy Mexican, and Margo got mocha). These came in heartbreakingly adorable "Hug Mugs," which are ergonomically designed for optimum holding capacity (imagine a teardrop-shaped mug that fits perfectly in one's cupped hands, thus creating both a cozy sense of euphoria as well as allowing the warmth of the mug to travel to your hands. Genius!).
To eat, Tess got a smoked salmon sandwich on some luscious-looking poppyseed-and-what-have-you bread; Margo got a perfect omelette that came with roasted potatoes, hollandaise sauce, and (why not?) chocolate sauce (in case it occurs to you that an omelette or potatoes might be even better with some rich milk chocolate -- it occurred to Margo, and boy was she happy!). Andrew and I split a smoked turkey/mushroom crepe and a bowl of the most perfect penne carbonara I have ever had. This includes all the carbonara we ate in France, and God only knows how many different kinds we tried while we were there.
But, of course, it's always a good idea to save the best for last, so after thoroughly sating ourselves with the savory stuff, we were ready to usher in the sweets. The final verdict? We all decided to split two desserts: the banana split waffle and the intense double chocolate fudge cake. The waffles were topped with fresh bananas, melted chocolate sauce, and candied hazelnut bits, served with fresh berries, vanilla ice cream, and a cute little beaker of MORE chocolate sauce. The fudge cake was dense, dark, moist and succulent, filled with the kind of dark chocolate lava you could drown in. This, too, was served with fresh berries, ice cream, and an extra beaker of chocolate sauce.
Here's a close-up on the cake:
In case you were wondering, the chocolate sauce in the beakers was warm and oozey enough to be chugged, as such:
Mmmm... I'm not embarrassed in the least bit. In fact, I embraced it so wholly and so lovingly that I felt inclined to spread it all. over. my face... but I'll spare you the picture of what Margo calls my Dali-stash, considering I do need to get into college. Explicit as the photo isn't, I do have to set boundaries somewhere. Here we are, eating away (sorry you're excluded, Margo; I guess you were being the photographer? So at the very least I'll give you due credit for that):
Here I am, quite obviously enjoying myself to no end:
And the damage:
At long last, when our stomachs were happily but uncomfortably full and our faces were becoming exhausted due to the inordinate amount of laughing we had done over the course of the meal, our suave waiter handed us the check -- and at Max Brenner's, not even the usual black leather folder is good enough to encase such a thing. No, our check came inside of a tin box that looked strangely like a box of chocolates. So as per usual, I painstakingly agonized over the check, giving everyone an accurate-to-the-cent (I'm only slightly OCD, actually) amount of what they owed...
...and as though I wasn't left COMPLETELY ecstatic by my marvelous meal, hot chocolate, and entirely over-the-top desserts, the waiter dropped by with one last thing. He handed me a small plastic container full of -- guess -- CHOCOLATE. Beautiful, hand-cut slices of the very milk chocolate that Max Brenner liquified into his god-like creations. "A gift for the freak," he muttered under his breath as he turned to get back to his other tables -- a reference, probably, to the fact that, before he could even give dessert menus to the rest of the table, I enthusiastically extracted my own tattered, printed copy from my purse. "It just makes me so happy that I always carry it around," I explained. So, YES, my lunch experience was capped off by a personal gift from (let's hope) Max himself to me. You must understand, this kind of miracle doesn't happen everyday.
So that was that, and after paying the check, we ventured back out into the torrential downpour for a jaunt into the Virgin Megastore to leaf through inappropriate books and a quick outside tour of the Met Opera. Good day? I seem to think so.