Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Majestic

911 King Street
Alexandria, VA  22314
www.majesticcafe.com
Majestic on Urbanspoon

If you're going to eat in Old Town, Cathal Armstrong's restaurants have to be on your list of places to visit.  I've tried two of them (Eammon's and Virture Feed & Grain) and today I decided to have lunch at The Majestc.  It was a gorgeous Spring day and I had just gone through two pretty harsh days at work so I decided to put some time aside for a nice leisurely lunch of good book and some catching up on my reading I'm reading Catching Fire which is the 2nd book in the Hunger Games Trilogy.  I can't put them down and they are so much more than just teen reading.  And no, I've never read Twilight.  Really, no.

The Majestic sounds like one of those grand old movie theaters like the Uptown in DC or the Senator in Baltimore where it's a big expansive room with only one big blockbusting movie is playing.  The restaurant somewhat evokes that feel with the big neon signs on the facade of the building but when you walk in, all you see is casual elegance and grand old wooden bar top that is reminiscent of the 30s and 40s.  I sat in the back which was rather dark except for the lone skylight that only brightened up half the room.  The open kitchen is a nice feature but I was too far away to see the bustling activity in the back.  The waitress and I wish I got her name was amiable, friendly and extremely professional.  We even had some great small talk about the book.  They were also playing Florence & the Machine as their choice of music in the dining room which made me really like the place immediately.  For a drink, I ordered one of their homemade sodas which I believe was a kefir lime, coconut juice, and thai chile mixture.  The first part of the sip for the soda was cool, tart & sweet with the lime & coconut notes coming through but the last note and aftertaste had a small spicy tingling that wasn't overwhelming but made the drink very balanced.

I chose The Majestic for lunch because while I was looking over menus for places to go, The Majestic had three of my all-time favorite ingredients in three different courses.  They offered a fried oyster appetizer, a pasta dish with morel mushrooms and a vanilla panna cotta for dessert.  For the appetizer, I ordered the Fried Local Oysters with what is described as a creole caper remoulade and chives.  Besides the slightly pinkish color which maybe indicated some creole spices, I didn't taste the kick I would expect something labeled as creole.  The capers seemed to take over the sauce and was more akin to a smoother tartar sauce which worked quite well with the oysters and reminded me of the sauces at Eammon's.  The batter on the oyster was lighter than it looked (still no Pearl Oyster Bar like I mentioned in my post about Hank's Oyster Bar) and there was little enough as to not mask the oysters.  There were some soggy bits of the batter but overall a lot of different flavors from the savory oysters and crunchy batter to the sweetly tart sauce, made this dish very successful.

For my entree, I ordered the House Made Tortelli with fresh morels (!), brown butter, morel cream, and Parmesan.  Morel mushrooms (and I love mushrooms in general) are my favorite type of fungus not only because they are full of the earthy flavor you expect from mushrooms but also due to numerous ridges and crevices on the cones of the mushrooms that are the perfect vehicle to absorb and carry any sauces you serve them with.  In this particular dish, the tortelli sat in a bath of butter cream sauce with sauteed morels and crumbled parmigiano reggiano on top.  The tortelli felt a bit under-cooked to me and I'm a fan of al dente but this was just a tad stiff with more starchiness than I prefer in my pastas.  However, this was more than made up with the delightfully creamy sauce and the morels.  The pasta, the well-seasoned, well-cooked morels and the sauce all went so well together and provided a savory, creamy depth of flavor but much lighter than expected.

For dessert, I got the Vanilla Panna Cotta with a rhubarb passion fruid coulis.  The panna cotta was sitting in a rich red coulis with raspberries and blueberries interspersed around the bowl.  On top there was a twig of basil and what I'm guessing to be a strip of the peeled skin off of the rhubarb.  I didn't eat the basil this time but I tried the strip of rhubarb which was rather flavorless and I wasn't sure of why it was even included.  The vanilla panna cotta was cool and creamy without being overly heavy and the vanilla component was just right as to not override the creamy flavor of the panna cotta.  I did like how it paired with the coulis and fresh berries which gave a nice balancing tartness to the panna cotta. The color of the coulis, though, was a bit off-putting and along with the consistency reminded me of a spaghetti sauce which wasn't a pleasant association for dessert for me.

Of all the Cathal Armstrong restaurants I've visited so far, The Majestic was by far the best meal of them all. They gave me three nicely composed dishes which all melded flavors very well.  It was fortunate that they featured three of my all-time favorite foods but they presented all of them in a manner that reminded me why they were my favorites.  I would come back here any day but after this meal, I've set my sights on eating at the flagship called Restaurant Eve.
 

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