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What I Ate: February 15, 2009 (Crossroads Cafe, Maharani Restaurant)

Posted 15 February, 2009 at 11:34pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Today's dinner was one of those examples where I dined there so you wouldn't have to. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. For lunch, I took Tina up to Crossroads Cafe (699 Delancey St, San Francisco, CA‎ - (415) 836-5624‎) where I often have lunch. She had never been there before so I spent a little time telling her about the Delancey Street Foundation that runs the place (and also about Delancey Street Moving School where the founders of Moovers and many of their movers graduated from - which is probably the moving company we're going to choose for our move to Austin). We had a BLT with Avocado and a Focaccia Pizza.

The BLT was excellent (as usual) with thick tasty bacon slices (not thin and crisy, but slightly soft and chewy), whole leaves of butterleaf lettuce, just enough mayonnaise so nothing tasted dry, and creamy avocado.
Crossroads Cafe - BLT with Avocado

The pizza wasn't quite as good. Because it was prepared on focaccia, the crust was soft, fluffy, and spongy. The cheese was a bit much and kind of cold on the pieces I had.
Crossroads Cafe - Focaccia Pizza

We also had a couple cups of soup which were great once we stirred in some more salt and pepper. Tina had Barley and Lentil Soup.
Crossroads Cafe - Barley and Lentil Soup

I had the Garlic and Potato Soup.
Crossroads Cafe - Garlic and Potato Soup

In the evening, we went to Maharani Restaurant (1122 Post Street, San Francisco, CA‎ - (415) 775-1988‎) where I had made an appointment for the "Fantasy Room" which is supposed to be one of the most romantic places to dine in San Francisco. I wasn't too happy about the whole experience though. The first problem I had was the seating. In the Fantasy Room, you sit on elevated carpeted booths with a short table. There's no hole or depression to place your legs, so you're pretty much sitting on the floor. The way our table was oriented, the two of us couldn't sit cross legged. In the room, there are two types of tables - short and long. The long tables are oriented so that people sit opposite each other (this is the type of table you want). Our table was smaller, so it was set up so we were sitting side by side on one side. Also, it took me a while to get over the fact that we were pretty much sitting on the floor and getting my pants (and coats) dirty. It looked like the booth hadn't been properly cleaned in a while. The decor in the room also felt really dated and the pink plastic beads didn't really afford any privacy nor added to the romance. Also, there was a creepy looking old man sitting at one end of the room who introduced himself as the musician for the night. (He was creepy looking because where he sat, he was brightly illuminated from below like someone telling ghost stories with a flashlight held up under their chin.) He played music from a CD player and used various percussion instruments and sometimes a flute or saxophone to "augment" the music. He annoyed me. (He annoyed me even more when we struck up a fairly loud conversation with another table and made some very ill-informed comments about the California Vehicle License Fee, former governor Grey Davis, and our state's current fiscal problems.)
Maharani Restaurant - Fantasy Room

In the Fantasy Room, they only provide prix fixe menus (which is what we expected). Today, there were four choices at $42, $59, $75, and $101 per person. We liked the descriptions of the food on the $59 menu, so we chose that menu.

We started with appetizers of Chicken Tikka Kebab ("Roasted chicken breast cutlets marinated in ginger, turmeric, garlic and yogurt") and Mixed Vegetable Pakora ("Cauliflower fritters mixed with bell peppers"). The chicken was a little tough, but really flavorful. The pakora was excellent. So far we were off to a great start food-wise.
Maharani Restaurant - Chicken Tikka Kebab and Mixed Vegetable Pakora

When our salads ("Spring mixed greens with goat cheese & mango vinaigrette") arrived, we started eaten them and then realized they were missing the goat cheese.
Maharani Restaurant - Salad (without cheese)

After we rang the bell to call a waiter, he apologized (the wait staff was very friendly and courteous) and brought us our salads with the cheese on it. While I rephotographed the salad, Tina discovered hers was now missing the dressing! After we got that fixed, we ate the salads which was pretty good (avoiding a few wilted pieces we picked out).
Maharani Restaurant - Salad (with Cheese)

The appetizers were followed up with the main course. This was Chicken Tikka Masala ("Fire roasted breast of chicken cooked with a delicate blend of spices"), Boti Kebab ("Cubes of lamb marinated in garlic, mustard seed, yogurt and fenugreek"), Saag Paneer ("Spinach with garlic & onion and Indian cheese"), and Saffron basmati rice pilaf. The dishes were all fairly tasty at first (with the chicken unbelievably tender), but over the course of the meal I began to taste the mediocre preparation. The Chicken Tikka Masala was overly sweet and didn't really feel like it was as complex as I was used to. (For example, Mehfil Indian Cuisine serves sauces that are made with layers of flavors - toasted spices in a sauce with a mixture of tastes that set off taste buds all over the mouth.) After a while, all I could taste was sweet and salty. The paneer was the same way - starting off pretty good, but over a few more mouthfuls it felt flat and unidimensional.
Maharani Restaurant - Chicken Tikka Masala, Boti Kebab, Saag Paneer, and Saffron basmati rice pilaf

The dessert of Mango Melba ("Mango ice cream atop butter pound cake & chocolate sauce") was quite good - probably the highlight of the meal.
Maharani Restaurant - Mango Melba

Tina and I discussed what we thought the meal was worth and if we looked at just the food, then I'd say at most $20 per person (since quantities of each course were small). There's probably a premium added to eat in the Fantasy Room, but my overall experience in the room (I forgot to mention that I had a light about 4-6 inched from my eyes and bending down to eat the food caused the light to be blocked out by my head. Also, for almost the entire meal we were awkwardly facing another couple who was not seated the same way (they were seated across from each other) and it just seemed weird. We asked the wait staff to help us rotate the table so we could sit opposite each other instead of next to each other looking out at other tables - but then we lost our back support…) was so poor and uncomfortable, that I felt I would pay less to sit there instead of in the main dining room.

At the end of the day, they couldn't execute on the food (there are plenty of great Indian restaurants who do serve good food), the romantic experience was kind of creepy and icky, and it just wasn't worth the money.

3 comments to What I Ate: February 15, 2009 (Crossroads Cafe, Maharani Restaurant)

rooooo, February 16th, 2009 at 6:40 pm:

Michael Chu, February 16th, 2009 at 10:24 pm:

  • That's a good idea. It's been mentioned to me before, but I haven't be able to consistently take pictures of everything I've eaten for longer than 3 months (in 2008). I just hit the 1.5 month mark for 2009.

What I Ate: February 19, 2009 (Mehfil Indian) | Orthogonal Thought, February 19th, 2009 at 11:53 pm:

  • […] 19 February, 2009 at 11:53pm by Michael Chu(Filed under: Food, What I Ate) After the Maharani Indian fiasco earlier this week, I've been craving Mehfil Indian. I went to Mehfil (600 Folsom St, San […]