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Cafe Majestic

We were going to talk to the hostess about who we should chat with about our experience, but as soon as she got our coats, she was out the door.

Nov 04, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area

Cafe Majestic

The Kosta Browne was an 06 Sonoma Coast, not a single vineyard, though we have had the opportunity to drink a few bottles of the Kanzler. DELICIOUS!

The Bordeaux was from the Left Bank, cannot remember the name.

You're right, despite the poor service, we still enjoyed the company, the atmosphere and of course the wines.

Nov 04, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area

Cafe Majestic

I will preface this entry by saying 2 things.
First, my apologies to chef Maldonado, who's menu is interesting and eclectic. You are at the beginning of your journey at Cafe Majestic, but we will not be riding along with you this time (we loved you at Cortez). Second, living in a major metropolitan area, language barriers exist in every facet of daily life. Both parties work together to communicate and that is how you get things done. Not the case here and it ruined our experience.

Our server greeted us quite shyly and asked if he could get us a drink. My husband asked, 'Do you have Hangar?' Blank stare from our server. 'Hangar vodka?' Uhhh, no, uhhh, Tanqueray and Skyy. 'That's it?' Yes. 'I'll have a Skyy on the rocks with an olive.' The rest of us ordered, I asked what they had for Prosecco or some kind of champagne, he said, "Yes." I'm not sure which he was saying yes to, but I just nodded and figured I would get something with bubbles.

Our dining partners commented that our server may be slightly inexperienced as he appeared to be looking inside the bar to determine what kind of vodka they actually had. For the record, it would have been okay for him to say, "I don't know. I'm new, but let me check." Clearly that didn't happen.

We brought 2 bottles of wine that needed to be decanted so when our server returned with our drinks (minus my husband's olive), we asked if he could open them to let them breathe prior to dinner. He took our bottles over to a stand around the corner, out of our line of sight and tried for about a minute to open one, then took both back to the kitchen. I thought my husband was going to chase him down as ours was an expensive bottle of 2000 Bordeaux, the other was a Kosta Browne Pinot, also quite pricey.

He came back to the table with both of the bottles already decanted. I thought to myself, were you swapping our Bourdeaux for a Barefoot Cab while you were in the kitchen? My cynical humor can be offsetting so I held my tongue. He wondered aloud where he should put them as the tables are really small. We asked if they had a stand or something. He looked confused and tried to put the decanters back by the divider but then thought better of it. So, on the table they went. At this point we're wondering if he was a busboy posing as our waiter, but even a busboy knows restaurant etiquette and probably knows where there's a bucket or some kind of stand for the wine as well as what kind of vodka is stocked. We mused he was pulled off the street to fill in for one of the more seasoned servers who had taken ill.

The menu, if you look online, is quite different. A lot of different ingredients with flavor combinations that you would not expect. This is where a good server is key, they act as a guide through the menu. Our server asked if we were ready to order. I always have questions so I asked away. 'The ice wedge salad with a hens egg and pickled red onions, is the egg poached?' I could not understand a word he said as he stammered through an explanation. Finally we got a small hint when we heard, "Gelatin." Our friends said, "Ahh, it's a gelee which is like an egg sauce." Umm, I'll have the gnocci, even though I'm not sure how gnocci, piquillo peppers, arugala and olives all fit together in one dish.
Next question was about the grilled Kingfish. I asked, "What kind of a fish is it?" The response, "It white fish and it's grilled." Yeah, that second part is on the menu. My girlfriend asked, "Is it more flaky white fish or steak-like?" The answer was 'Steak' and that's it. There was no further explanation, he didn't try to tell us anything more about it. I thought it would have been a good time for him to mention that it was a strong tasting fish, served rare, all of which I learned later in the meal.

The appetizers came in a timely fashion, my husband picked the winner with the tartare of Kanpachi. Both of our friends got the trumpet mushrooms in the celery root emulsion, which was interesting and quite good. My gnocci was so light and airy and really well executed, but there was something missing that could bring all of those random ingredients together. I'm not sure what that missing element was, but the dish fell short.

Our plates were cleared and we enjoyed our wine. When our dinners arrived it was like a circus. There were 2 different men holding 2 plates each, and our server was behind them. They stood in front of us for a good 30 seconds playing musical plates. They delivered my kingfish to our friend, then tried to give his suckling pig to my husband. The server was directing them saying, "No she had the pig." Umm, no I didn't. FInally they both stepped back and said, "Who had the kingfish? Who had the steak?" There were 4 of us dining, not 10 and 2 of us had the same dish.

Everyone finally got their respective meals and I'm looking at my less than opaque Kingfish kicking myself for ordering something that could not be explained properly. I took a bite and immediately did not like the taste. My husband wins again with his choice of the hangar steak. Though we were disappointed with the appetizer-sized portion (there was maybe 2-3 oz of meat on his plate), especially since he had to share with his wife. The steak was delicious. The suckling pig was good. My girlfriend even liked her Kingfish.

We all finished eating and i literally had 2 whole pieces of fish, minus 2 bites, left on my plate. The server came and asked how everything was. Fine we said. He looked at mine and said, "You want kitchen?" Umm, no, that's okay. I'm not sure what he was saying, either that he would return it to the kitchen or he would wrap it up to go in the kitchen? I had had enough wine and not enough food at this point that I was getting tired.

My husband said, "Well, at least now you have room for a really big dessert." Yes, and I was looking forward to it. Our server came over and delivered us each a spoon with some kind of green shaved ice. He said, "This an amuse-after dinner for you." Amuse-bouche? Then he handed out the dessert menus and said, "I recommend the Valrhona. It like a mousse." Okay, what's the persimmon and caramel brioche? "It a pudding bread with caramel and persimmon." I am not exaggerating. It was that bad.

We all mused, over our mediocre coffee, at the comedy of errors. On our way out, as we picked up our jackets from the lovely hostess, my husband busted out laughing. He had just walked by the bar and saw Hangar Vodka sitting on the shelf. It was the perfect end to our evening.

I will sign off with this last comment which is something I cannot stress enough. Give me a bad meal and outstanding service and I will return for another try. But give me bad service with a mediocre meal and I am outta here. Adios, Cafe Majestic.

Nov 02, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area

Camino

When I read the NY Times review of Camino, I was excited, as were our friends who live in Berkeley. A date was set (last night), reservations were made, and a fast ensued till our dinner.
We were so excited we made sure to get to the restaurant 30 minutes early to test out some of the much touted drinks at the bar - we rated the Gravenstein apple brandy one as top on the list last night.

As our 7:30 reservation approached, we watched the restaurant start to fill up. Ten minutes past our reservation time, still enjoying the drinks and boiled peanuts, our friend went up to speak to the hostess. She said it would be a few more minutes as some slow diners finished up their dessert and she would come get us. Now repeat this same conversation two more times, minus the decent excuse. Each time we went up to the hostess stand, she was sorry but there was nothing she could do. Even as we pointed out empty tables, she said those were for larger parties who were coming in at 8 pm. What?

Finally at 8:10 the manager came up, apologized for the delay, then seated us. We loved our waitress as she guided us through the menu - sheeps milk ricotta with figs and fried eggplant, local marinated sardines, chicken ragu, lamb, albacore. And of course we had dessert; chocolate semifredo along with a pear and almond torte. We devoured both desserts and declared them the evenings winners, although my husband would vote the sardines as #1. The service was a touch slow, but it was also super crowded. The atmosphere at the community dining table was relaxed and not too loud or invasive.

We got our bill which was pretty hefty after drinks, a bottle of wine, appetizers and dessert. But we noticed 2 glasses of wine we were charged for that were not ours. We brought this to the attention of the waitress and she actually said, "Are you sure they're not yours?" Um, yeah, that's why we said they weren't ours. So she took the wine off and gave us the new bill. Her question was like picking the scab off of an old wound.

We wanted to love this restaurant. We even applauded (while others criticize) the limited menu, thinking this would allow the chef/food to really shine. The food was delicious and fresh, not great.

As we discussed the evening on the car ride home we all agreed. Yes, the server questioning our scrutinizing of the bill was a bit insulting. And yes, it would have been nice to get our drinks or dessert comped after our 40 minute wait in the bar. But it was not necessary. What would have made us happy was to see an employee empowered to make a customer's dining experience the best one possible.

Instead of a hostess telling us there is nothing she can do about our 7:30 reservation being missed 3 times, tell us you're going to look into it, tell us you're going to talk to the manager to see what you can do, tell us you care.

With the current state of our economy, dropping $300 on dinner for 4 is not in every person's budget. We are privileged and we recognize this. But if a restaurant wants to survive in this economy, they need to make sure every person on their payroll is vested in the success of the business.

Sep 14, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area

Dining at Perbacco

My husband and I had a nice meal at Perbacco last night. A few things kept if from being extraordinary.

We ordered the salame appetizer, which was delicious. The reason why we chose that over anything else was our servers lack of knowledge of the other cured meats. She could not tell us the difference between the 'salame' and 'cooked salumi' except that the latter involved a pigs head being roasted down so it was very tender. There were 5 meats on that plate and that was how she chose to showcase it. We took a pass. I was also disappointed that when the salame plate was served, no one took the time to tell us which of the 5 different meats was what. They all rocked, but who knew what we were eating?

The yellow tail appetizer; the fish was extremely fresh but the watermelon garnish was way over salted. You couldn't get that perfect salty, sweet combination that just awakens your palette and primes it for the fish. Instead you got a salt lick on top of your fish.

The tagliatelle with pork sugo knocked my socks off. Though when I asked (quite innocently) our server about the unique linguini-esque shape of the pasta, she said 'that's what tagliatelle is' and she had never in her life heard of a flat/fat, thin tagliatelle. What?

I have nothing but praise for the ribeye. Cooked and seasoned to perfection, we enjoyed the hell out of it.

None of the desserts really appealed to us so once again I looked to our server to sell us on something. And once again, our server failed us. I asked her what the 'Brutti Ma Buoni', also known as the Ugly but Good cookie, was. Her response, "It's an almond cookie that is ugly but good." I stopped asking questions after that.
We finally settled on the caramel gelato which was amazing.

One of the greatest things about San Francisco is that the servers are true foodies, and are doing this job not because they have to, but because they love it. They have distinct opinions about the food and wine they're serving. I want them to share their opinions and serve as a guide for me in my dining experience. This woman just didn't have it in her. Maybe she was new and was unfamiliar with the entire menu, but I doubt it. Bottom line, I will always go back to Perbacco because of the food.

Jul 18, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area

Anchor & Hope

Just finished lunch at Anchor and Hope, the newish restaurant opened by the Rosenthal brothers and Doug Washington. Being a true east coaster, I was a little leery when they delivered a lobster roll with something other than drawn butter. THANK GOD it wasn't mayo. It was a delicious blend of spices on a fantastic east coast style roll. And those kettle chips, light as air and perfectly salted.
We started with the gravlax salad which was fantastic, especially when you ate it with the yummy potato cake.
Though this is an east coast fish house, I'm not sure if my favorite part was all of the wines by the glass or the home made chocolate cake with salt and nuts on the frosting. I hope everyone gets to try out this little gem of a restaurant.

Jul 07, 2008
Corte Medusa in San Francisco Bay Area