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Café Majestic

The Royal Treatment

Have you had dinner in a quiet restaurant lately? We haven’t either. But if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate with a date or family and actually converse; you couldn’t pick a more tranquil spot than the recently renovated dining room at the Hotel Majestic on Cathedral Hill. Awash in cream tones and soft lighting, the booths and tables are set comfortably apart -- allowing diners to enjoy a leisurely meal in a peaceful environment. The staff is friendly and proud to be there, eager to share their favorite picks on chef Ian Begg's menu. Kudos to general manager and wine director Ryan Maxey for creating an overall effect that is soothing and elegant but never stuffy.

We began with an amuse bouche of a creamy cold sweet pea soup and a perfectly poached scallop with a bit of mint and pea shoot. It was paired with a complimentary glass of a lovely sparkling wine that accented its springy green flavors.

The appetizers were wonderful. The most decadent was definitely the Pan Seared Sonoma Foie Gras ($17) which was served with slivers of brussels sprouts, and a sweet golden raisin sauce over a piece of brioche. The rich and creamy foie with luscious sauce was a generous serving. The Dungeness Crab Salad ($13) might have used a bit more citrus, but it was plated in gorgeous style with a layer of avocado mousse topped with radish and fluffy frisee.

We also shared one of the vegetarian entrees as an appetizer. The Fried Grit Cake ($19) is indeed the sleeper hit on the menu, as our waiter indicated. Slightly crisp on the outside, it was tender and cheesy on the inside. The accompanying mushroom ragout was beefy and satisfying. The fava beans and fiddlehead ferns provided crunch and a refreshing green contrast to the earthiness of the dish. We would definitely order it again.

The Grilled Rare Hawaiian Ono ($28) was a generous portion of rare fish. The sauteed pea shoots and green garlic were bright, the sea urchin cream a bit understated. The Braised Kurobuta Pork with mustard spaetzle showed a touch of spring with grilled wild ramps, but the sweet cognac and cider sauce with flecks of bacon in the spaetzle evoked fall.

The grilled veal chop was enormous; it was topped with a sweet red onion jam. On the side were fava beans, hen of the woods mushrooms, crispy sweetbreads and butter-poached Peruvian potatoes. The cabernet sauce worked well with the dish, but was a bit heavy for the season.

Likewise, the Grilled Mountain River Farms Venison Loin ($28) spoke more of fall than spring, despite being perfectly cooked -- tender and rare with no gaminess, served with sage, blood orange reduction and braised endive. The garnish of fiddlehead ferns and pine nuts seemed out of place here and did not add enough contrast to elevate the dish. A crusty potato gratin or mash would have helped to balance out the plate and sop up the sauce. Hovering around $30, most entrees are pricey though quality is high.

When dessert time rolled around, we found the homemade ice creams to be creamy but a bit mild. The peach was the most intense, a table favorite over the mellow hazelnut and bland cherry vanilla. A pineapple "sandwich" ($8) with puff pastry was a nice twist on a more typical tart. The most unusual dessert may have been the delicate lemongrass panna cotta with candied ginger and basil oil ($7); it was cool and zingy.

California, French
Pacific Heights

Reservations Essential? Yes.