New Majestic Serves Big Taste in Snall Space
Despite its tightly curated menu and tiny space, the newly refurbished Majestic, 911 King St., Alexandria, delivers big taste.
The Majestic Café, housed in a historic Old Town storefront, closed March 14 and reopened as The Majestic on May 23. The original restaurant opened at 622 King St. in 1932 then moved to its current location in 1949. It closed in 1978 then reopened in 2001.
The new interior of was designed by architect Paul Beckmann of Beckmann Architects and interior designer David Chennault, both of Old Town. The design pays respect to the art deco roots and elements that were retained in the renovation, while adding modern updates and layers of interest through color, texture, finishes and lighting. Inspiration came from intimate supper clubs, art salons and a collector’s gallery. The walls are covered by a mish mash of photographs, prints, paintings and drawings, framed and unframed
Rich jewel-tones – primarily emerald green and burgundy — throughout are enhanced by ambient lighting, and small lamps at individual booths in the 85-seat dining room. An open display kitchen takes center stage at the back of the restaurant, while the 20-seat bar fills the front. Out front, there is an eight-seat seasonal patio.
Executive chef and proprietor Gaby Hakman replaced the former Southern menu with a contemporary seasonal bistro menu showcasing quality olive oils, herbs, garlic and other influences that reflect her Mediterranean palate, as well as rotisserie meats that add deep flavor and variety.
Hakman’s menu is small with only eight entrees currently on it for dinner, but it provides big flavor.
If you can’t wait, “nibbles” such as fried olives with pimenton aioli; market crudité with green goddess dressing; lamb meatballs with currants, pine nuts and yogurt; or potato chips with caramelized shallot-onion dip priced from $5-$9 can be delivered to your table in no time at all while you decide on your other courses. During a recent visit, my companion and I opted for the deviled eggs, which are described on the menu as “chef’s whimsy.” On this night, it was three half eggs with mustard mixed with the yolks and topped with some micro fine spicy papers, which added a bit of a kick and helped to balance the mustard.
Starters, priced from $8-$13, included kale salad with bacon, dates, almonds and parmesan; roasted beets with citrus, whipped goat cheese and pistachios; and little gems lettuce with tomato, cucumber and a buttermilk-herb dressing. We opted for the baked feta and the charred octopus. The baked feta was delicious with a coating of za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb mix of oregano, thyme and marjoram) and red pepper flakes served with toasted country bread. I could eat it with every meal. The charred octopus came as one long tentacle over pureed chickpeas and olives with microgreens and a harissa vinaigrette dressing. Although octopus is not one of my favorite dishes, my guest enjoyed it and the bite I tried was quite tender rather than rubbery, like most octopus I’ve tried. Our server explained that it was marinated overnight to breakdown the tissue and prevent the rubbery texture.
Entrées include whole grilled fish of the day with salsa verde, olives and broccolini; spit-roasted chicken with panzanella and au jus; garganelli pasta with a vegetable bolognese and pecorino cheese; king salmon with quinoa, asparagus and pistachio gremolata; mussels with tomato, wine, Calabrian chiles and frites; and the Majestic Burger with dry-aged beef, smoked gouda cheese and a bacon-onion jam. I opted for the Cheshire pork chop with polenta and balsamic cherries. It was another hit with the tart flavor of the balsamic offsetting the sweetness of the cherries. The deep-fried sage leaves on top were an unexpected burst of flavor. I ordered mine medium-well and it was perfectly cooked, not too pink inside and yet not tough at all. My friend ordered the N.Y. strip with Roquefort butter and a side of forest mushrooms mixed with fingerling potatoes. The Roquefort added nice flavor to the steak, which was already full of flavor. Entrées range from $16-$36.
Sides, all priced at $5, include baby carrots with dukkah and yogurt; roasted cauliflower with parmesan butter; grilled asparagus with pangrattato; frites with coriander-cumin salt; and creamy polenta. Our choices were the crispy fingerlings with rosemary and the charred broccolini with soy, sesame and chiles. The potatoes were crispy on the outside without being overdone or dried out. And the broccolini was an excellent choice with the Asian twist.
My only issue came with dessert and the fact that the Majestic coconut cake, the only item on the menu carried over from the previous on, was sold out. Instead, I ordered the strawberry balsamic tart with pistachio crumble and rosemary cream, the only dish I wouldn’t order again. I didn’t like the way the balsamic mixed with the sweet strawberries, although the rosemary whipped cream was a flavorful and welcome addition. However, the Nutella budino, a layered chocolate and Nutella ganache served with two “crack” cookies were to die for. The cookies are appropriately named as they are as addictive as the drug. In fact, my guest asked if she could buy a dozen to go. (She couldn’t.) Desserts are all $8.
Lunch includes many of the same nibbles, appetizers, entrées, sides and desserts as dinner but add a selection of salads and sandwiches priced from $9-$14 such as a streak salad with mint, basil, peanuts and a chile dressing; a grilled veggie sandwich with kale, harissa and goat cheese; a Cubano with port shoulder, pickled cherry peppers and Swiss cheese; and a wild mushroom grilled cheese with smoked gouda, fontina and caramelized onions.
For Brunch, dishes run the gambit from chunky monkey bread with chocolate and cinnamon and brûléed grapefruit with vanilla bean to avocado toast with za’atar, herbs and a poached egg option. Heartier selections include fried chicken and waffle with bourbon maple syrup and tabasco butter; eggs in purgatory with chickpeas and fiery tomatoes; and the Majestic breakfast with eggs, fingerling hash and smoked bacon or turkey sausage. There’s also breakfast Sammy with egg, smoked bacon and cheese in addition to the lunch sandwiches and salads. Brunch items range in price from $10-$24.
The bar offers five Virginia craft brews on draught along with another dozen national and regional brands in bottles. There are 42 domestic and imported wines, many available by the glass or bottle and 13 classic and signature cocktails.
The Majestic is open from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and brunch is served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.