Last night, we had the best "new restaurant meal" we've had all year. When a media invite for the reopened Cafe Majestic in Sutter Street's century-old Hotel Majestic popped into my inbox, I admit I was nonplussed. But it's time again for me to start eating my way through the Northside in preparation for our 3rd annual Best Food issue, and CM is definitely in the 'hood. So I accepted the very nice invitation and in we went last night.
I mean, wow.
Or, like, SHAZAM!
That was one fine meal. Chef Ian Begg (CM's second, for the record) has been flying under the radar in our fair City (or at least under mine). He is a master of combining flavors -- bitter, sweet, salty, sour, you name it -- as well as textures -- smooth, crisp, chewy, creamy. Nearly every dish hit three or four notes in each category, most in refreshing ways, and each dish was beautifully constructed.
Think soft, pink Hawaiian ono with slightly bitter, julienned pea shoots, sea urchin cream, and chili oil.
Think gnocchi with roasted cippolini onions, asparagus tips, and white truffle oil.
Think raspberry-fleshed venison, tart marmalade, firm fiddlehead ferns, creamy pine nuts.
Think lime in the mignonette for our Marin Miyagis -- a small, but magical change.
Okay, it wasn't a perfect meal from head to toe -- I thought the amuse was too lemony and the dessert far too sweet (dates and honey together just sent it over the top) but the other five courses were about as lovely as it gets in this town.
I fear that being so excited and so exclamatory may backfire on me. It has before. I went in with no expectations -- a local, seasonal Cal/French menu (yawn) in a restaurant I'd never heard of (hm?) with a chef I'd never heard of -- but everyone who was there last night was buzzing about it. The couple next to us even offered us a bite of chocolate cake on the way out, just so we could enjoy the same pleasure they were. It was a talk-across-the-tables kind of night.
Several of the staff, including our waiter, chef Begg, and the manager, the very enthusiastic Ryan Maxey, have worked together for years (previously at Vignette, I believe).
The interior has been redone, and it's not hip. It's not lime green and orange. It's not loud or retro or modern. It's not even allergic to dresses and heels. HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH, PEOPLE! Is anyone else as weary as I am of exposed brick and being bullied by SF's slackadaisical dress code to always wear denim?
Cafe Majestic won't be for everyone, I guess. Some people only want to eat frozen bubbles filled with molten seaweed, others are allergic to settings where salt is served in a glass sleigh bed and suits aren't out of place, but the rest of you, the next time you'd like a really nice meal? You go.