One of the perks of being a paid food blogger is the wonder of the press dinner. New or revamped restaurants let you sample the menu on the house to promote their space and hopefully get a nice review.
Of course, you can’t review a free meal, but we can honestly say that regardless of price (or lack thereof), Café Majestic, in the Majestic Hotel, holds its own.
If one could architecturally realize champagne bubbles, the result would probably be the Café Majestic dinning room. All golden lighting and white upholstery. The hotel itself is situated a comfortable distance from the often headache-inducing conglomerate of would-be downtown glam hotels on Sutter and Fillmore. Built in 1902, it retains an Edwardian charm (the bar is described as “part speakeasy, part curiosity cabinet” and the walls are decorated with an impressive butterfly collection).
But let’s get back to main event: the meal. The free meal. God, that makes things taste better. The food was just what we wanted, but not exactly what we expected. Before we arrived we had visions of fine dining tradition — roasted chicken, Brussel sprouts, sweetbreads — and while the menu doesn’t forgo staples like duck breast and leg of lamb, it had a distinctive modern bent.
We thought the dishes were comparable to those we’ve had at Michael Mina and Etoile in Napa, which makes sense considering Executive Chef, Louis Maldonada, has put in time at both One Market and French Laundry, and clearly has nothing but the utmost appreciation for ingredients and preparation. For us, this was most evident in his Japanese octopus appetizer — we were all over this dish and would happily go back just for that and a Sidecar at the Butterfly Bar!
The octopus legs (tentacles? Arms? What are those things?) come from Japan. They are poached in seawater reinforced with lots of minerals (the minerals give the octopus the rich flavor and also help to tenderize). It’s all cooked for an hour and a half and then pan roasted, which gives it an outside crispiness while preserving the tender inside. Seriously? Best thing we’ve eaten in a while, and a whole lot of effort for an unassuming spot like Café Majestic.
We would recommend the Café Majestic if you want fine dinning without the scene and an over-the-top price tag. It’s what happens when you leave out the flash the pomp of modern fine dining, but retain its elegance, splendor and thoughtfulness. Honestly. But we’re probably just saying that.