Triple Review - Majestic, Farrah Olivia, Central
Went out to a bunch of places for my birthday last week and wanted to post my thoughts. This is one of my first reviews, so hopefully it’s not too long or boring - I decided to err on the side of more detail. Here’s the quick summary in case you don’t feel like reading: Majestic – liked it better than the ‘old’ Majestic and a great choice for kids, Farrah Olivia – nice but a bit too sedate, Central – lived up to the hype for the food and pleasantly surprised by the friendly professional service.
First up, I wanted somewhere to go with my kids (2 and 5), so I chose the new Majestic in Old Town based on a recommendation about the kid food and softshell crabs (thanks jpschust). I was a little worried when we walked in for our 6:30 reservation and there were no other small kids in the restaurant and two hostesses had that ‘hip restaurant’ look about them. Luckily, that worry was quickly erased by a cute toddler seat (that matched the décor BTW) and a wonderfully accommodating server who genuinely liked kids or did a tremendous job of faking it. As for the food, I started with the fried green tomato appetizer (perhaps a little too raw on the inside for my taste) and my husband had a yummy mini crab cake. For entree, I was completely satisfied by my softshell crab and my husband enjoyed the meatloaf. And here’s the really amazing thing – the kids meals were fantastic, reasonably priced around $5, and were nicely sized as to not overwhelm small children. My son declared his grilled cheese the best ever and my daughter’s pasta had a shockingly flavorful, non-cloying white sauce. I really think I tasted a hint of gorgonzola in the cream sauce and I was happy I could finish it off for her! For dessert, we split a bowl of ice cream scoops. I also got the strawberry shortcake, which was disappointing in that it only had 6 or so strawberries (very strange given the overall quality of the rest of the meal). Strawberry shortage notwithstanding, we will definitely be returning.
Second, I ate lunch during the week with work friends at Farrah Olivia in Old Town. It was a very nice experience, although I was surprised how empty the place was at lunch time. To begin with, I split the goat cheese potstickers – I think the menu description said lemongrass but I was disappointed that I didn’t really taste that. Don’t get me wrong, it was yummy, but I always get a little annoyed when an ingredient is highlighted that I can’t taste. My entrée was the scallops, which were done absolutely perfectly and sat on a bed of creamy grits with truffle oil. The first taste of these grits was outstanding, but the portion was ridiculously immense for something so rich – didn’t come close to finishing it, and that was with four other tasters at the table. Several people at my table got the pork tenderloin and liked it, but I was expecting more flavor (although again it was cooked perfectly). For dessert, we got the Spice dessert – sort of trifle kind of thing with figs and mascarpone. Also insanely rich - too much mascarpone and not enough other stuff. I actually think one of my favorite parts of the meal was the bread basket with 4 little spreads – honey butter, sundried tomato puree, horseradish cream and something green I can’t remember. The service was fine, and the food very good, but perhaps it just wasn’t 100% my cup of tea. I guess I was expecting to see more exciting flavors based on what I had heard. I’d be interested to know what kind of experiences others have had – perhaps better at dinner?
Third, we headed to Central on Saturday night with another couple. I was a bit worried that it might be overhyped or we would have snooty service, but I am happy to report that was not the case. Because of the chowhound warnings about getting seated near the server station, I called up to ask for a table in the back with a view of the kitchen. I’m happy to report that they honored this request and we had a super competent and good humored server. I found the food to be almost universally fantastic. Of the appetizers, my favorite by far was the onion tart. My husband and his friend split the Tower of Power – this huge platter of cured meat, the ‘faux’ gras, and a salad with cornichons and picked onions. It was comically huge, but the guys loved it. We also got the gougeres, which were gone in thirty seconds I think. For drinks, the guys were thrilled with the beer selection, and our waiter pointed us to a nice, reasonable zinfandel that paired nicely with all the apps and entrees. For entrée, I loved the tender 72-hour short ribs. Our table also got the lobster burger, the fried chicken, and a fantastic rabbit special. I know everyone has been raving about the lobster burger, and although I liked it, the other entrees were better IMO. There was also impressive attention given to all the sides, whether it was the frites with the lobster burger, the mashed potatoes with the chicken, or the tarragon cous cous with the rabbit. Oh, and Michel Richard was in the dining a couple times at the beginning of the meal which was a nice little bonus. In any event, I truly can’t remember when I last had food of this quality for the money. Also, I was not expecting to be wowed by the service, but I was – friendly yet professional, attentive, and lots of detailed descriptions of the meals and good recommendations. One final note: our reservation was at 8:00 and I was surprised how empty the bar was on a Saturday at 7:45. Since you can eat at the bar without a reservation, this seems to me a great way to drop by any day of the week to sample some other things on the menu (and get more onion tart!)
What a great, detailed review. Thanks for sharing that with us.
The lobster burger gets mentioned on Chowhound a lot. Contrary to your assumption, it seems to me most folks are underwhelmed by it. I would say that's the assessment when a group of five of us had lunch there a few months back. It also seems to play an important role in the few highly negative posts about Central. Folks get so mad when they order a $29 lobster dish and it leaves them flat.
I propose a moratorium on the lobster burger. There are so many better orders. The tuna burger is just flat out better. I hear good things about the shrimp burger. The fried chicken, short ribs, fish and chips, are all terrific. In fact, the entire menu is loaded with goodies.
If you love the lobster burger, fine, you don't have to participate. But if you've never been to Central, order something else. And tell us about it.