Thursday, July 24, 2008

Majestic isn't exactly the word I would use

It may not be overstating it to say that I am in love with Cathal Armstrong…not in your traditional, romantic sense. No, instead I love Cathal more in the obsessive-compulsive sense, in that I am obsessed with and act compulsively regarding his offerings.

Given this declared love, I was therefore quite disappointed with my first dining experience at Majestic. After several nearly perfect nights at Restaurant Eve (FN1) and a night of take-home delight from Eamonn's (FN2), my expectations for the rustic mid-Atlantic cuisine offered by chef Shannon Overmiller (under Armstrong's ownership) were understandably high. Unfortunately, perhaps a bit too high. For such a small space, one would think that the kitchen would have no problem keeping up. Whether intentional or not, our 9:30 seating ran pathetically slow. For instance, with only a few tables left, dessert arrived a mere 20 minutes after we ordered it. As our waitress was ever present, it appeared that the stoppage resulted from the kitchen.

For apps, our table ordered mussels, soft-shell crabs, and a green salad to share. The mussels were flavorful and tender, with the right balance between butter and broth. A hearty sourdough roll to sop up this broth would have been a nice supplement. As has been the trend this season, the crabs were over-battered and fried, not leaving enough crab flavor. The salad was fresh, but not particularly memorable (given that I have nothing more to say about it). Between the table (seafood lovers, if you hadn't noticed, given our appetizer choices), folks ordered the Whole Grilled Bronzini and the Seared Blue Prawns. Both were delectable. The bronzini was flaky, tender, and moist - exactly how you want it. The prawns were seared delicately and complimented well by the shrimp-reduction risotto. We figured that things were warming up, having mediocre appetizers, but delicious main courses. We found, however, that the entrees were the climax. Splitting a couple of desserts including the week's special, a strawberry mocha cake that virtually everyone in the restaurant ordered, we were left with a bland impression. A shoulder-shrugging mediocre.

It's the casual "older sister", as the owners and staff like to refer to Majestic, but it just cannot stand up to its younger sibling. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, with Armstrong not actually running the kitchen. Majestic to me connotes a memorable fantasy experience. My experience here was not spectacular - not bad, but not spectacular. The true fantasy is digging into and savoring Armstrong's fare. I'm not giving up on big sis just yet, with a Nana's Sunday Dinner on the itinerary (fried chicken, mac and cheese, and peach pie on August's menu), but for now, the older sister has some little shoes to fill.

(FN1) With the incredible wine selection, motivated service, and mouthwatering morsels, how could anyone not adore Restaurant Eve?

(FN2) Eamonn's offers quite respectable fish and chips. Everything is full of flavor, and does not come off as greasy. If not enough, the fried Milky Way, a delight I'd never before tried (not enough county fairs for me evidently), topped off the meal.


iEatDC said...

I went to Majestic when it first re-opened, and although it was tasty (especially the fried green tomatoes) the teensy menu is what keeps me from returning. It's not that my dining companions are "picky" but options are important!

W. Mark Felt, Sr. said...

Ok, I've been back, and my first impressions were confirmed. This is not the place for me. Our same group traveled back to King Street for the August version of Nana's Sunday Dinner; fried chicken, cole slaw, mac & cheese, and peach pie. For $80, the chicken was more like a fried cornish hen...a family with small children next to us were served a much more substantial portion, but our complaints weren't addressed with any concern, but rather a distracted smile and shoulder shrug from our server. At one point, I found myself exclaiming that "my Nana wouldn't underfeed me like this!" Likewise, the sides were lackluster. Really, the only redemption for the meal was the peach pie, which was admittedly almost perfect. Rest assured, however, I will not be going back.