by Dwight Casimere
“This is an embarrassment of riches!” was the phrase I used, addressing the hostess after I entered the sumptuous dining room of the Capital Grille in Midtown Manhattan. Tucked away discreetly in the corner of the lower level of the Time-Life Building on West 51st, ‘the Capital’, as frequent habitués call it, is an elegant, but discreet escape from the rigors of the business day or the perfect prelude to an evening at the Met or Carnegie Hall.
African mahogany paneling and warm lighting from brass light fixtures in a distinctive Art Deco design sets the tone for the opulence ahead.
Capital Grille is known for its prime dry aged steaks, but be put on notice that the same care given its fresh meats is also accorded to the most exquisite bounty from the sea this side of Cape Cod. Speaking of which, steamed or grilled live Maine lobster is almost de rigueur.
A litmus test for me, besides the quality of the fresh bread and butter that is brought to table upon seating (all house made, warm and exquisite) is the veracity of the lobster bisque. This one presented itself as the real McCoy from the mere aroma of fresh crustacean pulled from the depths of the chilly waters off the Atlantic Coast. Copious chunks of sweet, succulent tail meat confirmed its authenticity. A drizzling of Dry Sack Sherry added the perfect flavor accent aigu!
Appetizers of fresh Mozzarella layered between sliced heirloom tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and 12-year old aged Balsamic vinegar and soft-as-pillows sautéed calamari with a fruity, slightly oaken glass of Silver Oak Chardonnay got the meal off to a flying start.
A bottle of 2006 Cabernet from the Stag’s Leap district of Napa Valley set the stage for the main course; prime aged filet mignon, cooked perfectly medium rare with both Béarnaise sauce and au jus. The carefully marinated and aged meat was virtually fork-tender and redolent of the mineral flavor so prized in a prime piece of meat. So flavorful was the cut of meat that the sauces languished on the side, uneaten. Asparagus in hollandaise and sautéed spinach were the perfect accompaniments.
The fish of the day was Dover Sole, sautéed in brown butter and lemon and severed expertly deboned, tableside. This is one of the supreme delights of brasserie dining and is served as expertly at Capital Grille as it is at Le Fouquet’s on the Champs Elysees.
A note about the wines; Capital Grille is the winner of Wine Spectator magazine’s Award of Excellence for its extensive wine list. A specially designed Wine Wall dominates the restaurant with over 5,000 bottles of wine, featuring 350 different wines from around the world. Selections from America, France, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and New World discoveries from Chile and Argentina are there for the asking. A special Captain’s List of premium wines selected by Capital Grille’s expert Sommelier and staff of Wine Stewards makes every visit a connoisseur’s adventure.
The house made desserts are a specialty of Capital Grille. Noticing the freshly made ice cream on the menu, I opted for a simple pairing of scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream with fresh berries and warm chocolate sauce with another glass of the flavorful Cabernet. All of the wait staff at Capital Grille is expert in making the appropriate wine selection to make every dining experience a celebration.
Capital Grille has locations in Chicago and suburbs with nearly 40 locations in major cities nationwide. Visit www.CapitalGrille.com for information and reservations.