I will preface this entry by saying 2 things.
First, my apologies to chef Maldonado, who's menu is interesting and eclectic. You are at the beginning of your journey at Cafe Majestic, but we will not be riding along with you this time (we loved you at Cortez). Second, living in a major metropolitan area, language barriers exist in every facet of daily life. Both parties work together to communicate and that is how you get things done. Not the case here and it ruined our experience.
Our server greeted us quite shyly and asked if he could get us a drink. My husband asked, 'Do you have Hangar?' Blank stare from our server. 'Hangar vodka?' Uhhh, no, uhhh, Tanqueray and Skyy. 'That's it?' Yes. 'I'll have a Skyy on the rocks with an olive.' The rest of us ordered, I asked what they had for Prosecco or some kind of champagne, he said, "Yes." I'm not sure which he was saying yes to, but I just nodded and figured I would get something with bubbles.
Our dining partners commented that our server may be slightly inexperienced as he appeared to be looking inside the bar to determine what kind of vodka they actually had. For the record, it would have been okay for him to say, "I don't know. I'm new, but let me check." Clearly that didn't happen.
We brought 2 bottles of wine that needed to be decanted so when our server returned with our drinks (minus my husband's olive), we asked if he could open them to let them breathe prior to dinner. He took our bottles over to a stand around the corner, out of our line of sight and tried for about a minute to open one, then took both back to the kitchen. I thought my husband was going to chase him down as ours was an expensive bottle of 2000 Bordeaux, the other was a Kosta Browne Pinot, also quite pricey.
He came back to the table with both of the bottles already decanted. I thought to myself, were you swapping our Bourdeaux for a Barefoot Cab while you were in the kitchen? My cynical humor can be offsetting so I held my tongue. He wondered aloud where he should put them as the tables are really small. We asked if they had a stand or something. He looked confused and tried to put the decanters back by the divider but then thought better of it. So, on the table they went. At this point we're wondering if he was a busboy posing as our waiter, but even a busboy knows restaurant etiquette and probably knows where there's a bucket or some kind of stand for the wine as well as what kind of vodka is stocked. We mused he was pulled off the street to fill in for one of the more seasoned servers who had taken ill.
The menu, if you look online, is quite different. A lot of different ingredients with flavor combinations that you would not expect. This is where a good server is key, they act as a guide through the menu. Our server asked if we were ready to order. I always have questions so I asked away. 'The ice wedge salad with a hens egg and pickled red onions, is the egg poached?' I could not understand a word he said as he stammered through an explanation. Finally we got a small hint when we heard, "Gelatin." Our friends said, "Ahh, it's a gelee which is like an egg sauce." Umm, I'll have the gnocci, even though I'm not sure how gnocci, piquillo peppers, arugala and olives all fit together in one dish.
Next question was about the grilled Kingfish. I asked, "What kind of a fish is it?" The response, "It white fish and it's grilled." Yeah, that second part is on the menu. My girlfriend asked, "Is it more flaky white fish or steak-like?" The answer was 'Steak' and that's it. There was no further explanation, he didn't try to tell us anything more about it. I thought it would have been a good time for him to mention that it was a strong tasting fish, served rare, all of which I learned later in the meal.
The appetizers came in a timely fashion, my husband picked the winner with the tartare of Kanpachi. Both of our friends got the trumpet mushrooms in the celery root emulsion, which was interesting and quite good. My gnocci was so light and airy and really well executed, but there was something missing that could bring all of those random ingredients together. I'm not sure what that missing element was, but the dish fell short.
Our plates were cleared and we enjoyed our wine. When our dinners arrived it was like a circus. There were 2 different men holding 2 plates each, and our server was behind them. They stood in front of us for a good 30 seconds playing musical plates. They delivered my kingfish to our friend, then tried to give his suckling pig to my husband. The server was directing them saying, "No she had the pig." Umm, no I didn't. FInally they both stepped back and said, "Who had the kingfish? Who had the steak?" There were 4 of us dining, not 10 and 2 of us had the same dish.
Everyone finally got their respective meals and I'm looking at my less than opaque Kingfish kicking myself for ordering something that could not be explained properly. I took a bite and immediately did not like the taste. My husband wins again with his choice of the hangar steak. Though we were disappointed with the appetizer-sized portion (there was maybe 2-3 oz of meat on his plate), especially since he had to share with his wife. The steak was delicious. The suckling pig was good. My girlfriend even liked her Kingfish.
We all finished eating and i literally had 2 whole pieces of fish, minus 2 bites, left on my plate. The server came and asked how everything was. Fine we said. He looked at mine and said, "You want kitchen?" Umm, no, that's okay. I'm not sure what he was saying, either that he would return it to the kitchen or he would wrap it up to go in the kitchen? I had had enough wine and not enough food at this point that I was getting tired.
My husband said, "Well, at least now you have room for a really big dessert." Yes, and I was looking forward to it. Our server came over and delivered us each a spoon with some kind of green shaved ice. He said, "This an amuse-after dinner for you." Amuse-bouche? Then he handed out the dessert menus and said, "I recommend the Valrhona. It like a mousse." Okay, what's the persimmon and caramel brioche? "It a pudding bread with caramel and persimmon." I am not exaggerating. It was that bad.
We all mused, over our mediocre coffee, at the comedy of errors. On our way out, as we picked up our jackets from the lovely hostess, my husband busted out laughing. He had just walked by the bar and saw Hangar Vodka sitting on the shelf. It was the perfect end to our evening.
I will sign off with this last comment which is something I cannot stress enough. Give me a bad meal and outstanding service and I will return for another try. But give me bad service with a mediocre meal and I am outta here. Adios, Cafe Majestic.
Too bad. The chef, sous chef, and GM/Sommelier all left together under mysterious circumstances in July. It was one of our favorite high end under the radar places in town, with great service, great food, somewhat inventive without letting inventiveness get in the way of good execution, and a really charming space where we could have comfortable conversations with our table mates.
The Kosta Browne was an 06 Sonoma Coast, not a single vineyard, though we have had the opportunity to drink a few bottles of the Kanzler. DELICIOUS!
The Bordeaux was from the Left Bank, cannot remember the name.
You're right, despite the poor service, we still enjoyed the company, the atmosphere and of course the wines.
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