Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Foie :: Cafe Majestic, San Francisco

Cafe Majestic is part of San Francisco’s longest continuously running hotel, The Hotel Majestic. In its first incarnation, dating back to 1902, the mansion was home to Milton Schmitt, a turn-of-the-century railroad magnate. Later, this elegant Edwardian served as the permanent residence for actresses Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Haviland. Numerous dignitaries have slept in its sumptuous suites, as well as one very determined ghost!

After extensive restoration the historic Cafe Majestic has re-opened. It’s beautiful, wonderfully lit and totally atmospheric with a genteel-cool vibe. The new look offers soothing creamy walls, romantic booths, golden chandeliers and stylish fresh flower arrangements. It’s all very grown-up yet still manages to feel very relaxed. Many restaurants describe themselves as offering “casual elegance” but the Majestic really pulls it off.

As of now the Cafe remains open only for Dinner and week-end Brunches, but will gladly arrange for private functions. A ladies’ high tea, a wedding rehearsal dinner, or a special Birthday celebration would all work well in this classy, intimate space.

Executive Chef Ian Begg mans the kitchen -and does so with great aplomb. In dog years, Chef Begg may not be all that young, but despite his tender age he’s had some great experience-you try getting behind the stove at age 14! He’s all about Cal/French, classic with a twist, seasonal and farm-fresh. All of their scrumptious breads (we polished off the whole chewy oatmeal loaf before we even got our starters), pastries and desserts are made in-house. But clearly, Chef Begg’s first love is fois gras. Totally smitten by the duck’s fatty liver, he begged me not to give up his personal e-mail address, but, believe me when I tell you “foie king” is in there.

We started our meal with an amuse-bouche that set our taste buds a-tingling. Just a few spoonfuls of the intensely flavored tomato/pepper gazpacho, simply presented in a pristine white, oversized soup bowl, and we were ready-set-go. Next up was an unusual and superb appetizer of pan-seared artisnal fois gras with an unexpected yet welcome, assist from slivers of sautéed brussel sprouts.

The Dungeness Crab Salad, a glorious mini-tower of fresh crab, citrus, and avocado mousse, was a silky delight.

Totally jazzed, I tucked into my first main course. The Braised Kurobuta Pork, paired with a surprisingly delicate mustard spaezle and sauced in a cognac/cider mix was sublime. While the Grilled Rare Hawaiian Ono with its tiny pea shoot trim and sea urchin cream was interesting, it won’t become my next religion..

Chef Begg is aided and abetted by a terrific team. After a few superb wine-pairings recommended by General Manager/wine director, Ryan Maxey, we didn’t hesitate (well at least not for too long) when he suggested we try “chef’s latest creation… fois ice cream.? Our adorable, exceedingly well-trained waiter, Tom, must have seen the “ ick? look cross our faces because he quickly jumped in: “It’s really subtle. Refreshing, and with a lingering, wonderful aftertaste.” Ok, we were in.

The presentation, a single baby scoop in a silver goblet teamed with a glass of sauterne… literally made me swoon. And… I don’t swoon so easily! Imagine the perfect butteriness of a rich creamy vanilla ice cream flattered by the haunting meatiness of the silken fois. Forget it. No way is your imagination that good. It simply must be tried to be believed.

This is a team to watch. And yes indeed-y, fois rules.

Cafe Majestic – Hotel Majestic
1500 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 441-1280

By Vagablond’s Token Redhead.

Posted by Janice Nieder on June 19, 2007 in Food, Travel

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