By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
While the rest of the chain proffers dry-aged black Angus beef, the Dallas and San Francisco locations serve prime-aged steaks. And the prime meat they sling is enough to transform the most self-righteously indignant counterculture weed grazer into a rabid right-wing conspirator with an NRA decoder ring.
Sitting in a splash of jus, the prime-aged sirloin was juicy, tender, and saturated with lusty flavor. This is the spot for diners with busting bloodlust cravings--and belt loops.
Steak au poivre in Courvoisier Cognac cream sauce had the appropriate silky meat texture counterbalanced by a vigorous peppercorn crunch without any grill-burn bitterness. To my palate it seemed overly pummeled with those corns, stifling the sweet richness of the meat with heat. Yet the smooth, silky sauce seemed to buff some of the edges while it pried open a smoky layer in the meat.
The casual meat will spark bloodlust as well. Grille's signature cheeseburger with sliced hamburger dills, lettuce, and tomato and a thin sheet of white cheese was a drooling disk of ground flesh engorged with flavor. Plus, the bun had the muster to hold up to the slobber, so it wasn't as if you were eating a burger love-locked in a bun that had fallen into the sink. Yet this plush patty was saddled with a side of limp, bland coleslaw that tasted as though it just might have spent some time near the drain.
But let's face it. It doesn't take quantum physics to grill steak alluring enough to get red-meat lovers horny. That's why it's doubly good that Capital Grille does seafood and other things just as well.
Farm-raised oysters, with requisite cocktail sauce and a vinegar and shallot dipper, were firm yet tender, with a clean brine flavor. Smoked Norwegian salmon was tender and satiny with vibrantly rich flavors and a forward smoky layer that was never overpowering. A scattering of firm, intense capers and diced onion added crisp polish, but ridiculously small toast points proved a distraction to what was otherwise a noteworthy creation.
For those who just can't avoid great fits of outrage over the plight of our oppressed cow brothers, there's the Grille's hearts of palm salad. Wedge-cut heart-of-palm slices scattered on a rosette of bib lettuce with diced red bell pepper were tender yet resilient. A drizzle of lime-mango dressing washed the flavors with a slightly sweet sparkle.
Even birds fare well here. The smoked turkey club is one of the heartiest, most robustly flavorful sandwiches you're likely to force between your chops--which is what you'll have to do given the width of the thing. Toasted bread was firm and moist--a rarity in this construction--and piled thick with smoked turkey, chewy bacon, tomato, and lettuce. A slathering of cranberry mayo is the touch that thrust it far beyond adequate, adding a subtle fruity sweetness and tang. A side of potato chips was bland, though, and in some cases stale.
Capital Grille's press kit says the company plans to impregnate the top 20 U.S. restaurant markets with its burly style of predatory feeding by the year 2000. Spots they've already chewed include Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, Miami, and Providence, Rhode Island.
But offering great steak with great service in an easy, elegant atmosphere may not be enough in a town where a new steak house is born every 19.5 minutes. In Dallas, a city where if you laid every steak served in a single day end to end, you'd have one hell of a municipal mess to clean up, it will take more than prime-aged steaks and wine lists that make the phone book look svelte to cut through the clutter.
Free Playboy magazines might do the trick.
Capital Grille.500 Crescent Court, Suite 135.(214) 303-0500. Open for dinner Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.;Friday & Saturday 5-11 p.m.Open for lunchMonday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $$$$