Saturday, February 06, 2010

Baltimore Restaurant Week: The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille is one of those restaurants I've never really bothered to visit. It always looked so expensive, so I never went in. And, well, yeah - it is expensive. Even at lunch. So when I called a friend of mine to suggest we do lunch for Restaurant Week, he suggested a place that was normally expensive. That way, we'd be getting a really good bargain. So Scott mentioned The Capital Grille and I figured it was time.

The Capital Grille is a national steakhouse chain - a very posh chain (that is: this ain't Sizzler). This much I knew, though I had few other expectations, except the hopes for a good lunch. Scott has eaten here before and has raved about it. One recommendation: the steak sandwich, which runs $18 - almost as much as the entire Baltimore Restaurant Week lunch menu. Not one for $20 sandwiches, I insisted on the Restaurant Week menu.

Scott and I were led through the rich wood-grained interior, past bright plate glass windows and massive portraits of famous Marylanders (NB: I had not known that famous Civil War figure Clara Barton was a Marylander, but the Massachusetts native spent the last 15 years of her life in Glen Echo). We were brought to a cozy table with a crisp white tablecloth, where we talked about family, friends and finances over freshly baked bread and butter. I ordered an iced tea (about $3) and Scott got a cocktail. I don't drink many cocktails, so I admit the $10 price tag on that one surprised me a bit.

Like most Restaurant Week spots, the Capital Grille offered a soup-or-salad course, an entrée and a dessert. Since we were in such a classy place, I didn't ask to try anything that Scott had.

I really need a new camera.

Scott got the clam chowder, which he seemed to really enjoy. I got the Capital Grille Garden Salad: a mixture of field greens and tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette with chunks of bleu cheese. I have grown tired of bleu cheese, so imagine my delight when I tried this cheese. It was perhaps the best bleu cheese I have eaten in several years: tangy and sharp but not too sharp ("wince-worthy" is the word I'm looking for). This bleu cheese was just mellow and even buttery enough to make me really savor it.

Each of us ordered the 8 oz. filet mignon with mashed potatoes for our main course. I ordered my filet mignon rare, and I got rare. Soft, tender and rare. I couldn't exactly cut it with my fork, but I was able to make a rather permanent dent with it. The filet mignon was beautifully juicy with a flavor that reminded me what quality beef is supposed to taste like. I also found out that day that 8 oz. of meat is a bit too much for me to handle all at once. And if that wasn't enough, Scott railed me about the meat selection at Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian churrascaria restaurant next door. So much meat as much of your meal is served on a skewer. And there is no vegetarian or seafood option. It's all meat. At least they have a wide selection of that. Fogo de Chão ain't cheap neither.

I have to rave about the potatoes. Rarely does a side dish stand up to a main entrée and not make a scene. No prima donna is this bowl of mashed potatoes. These were thick, buttery and moist. No lumps, which I often like a little bit of in my mashed potatoes. If I could just go to The Capital Grille and order the potatoes, I would in fact do that. They were a beautiful accompaniment to the filet mignon but also notable in and of themselves.

I liked my dessert, the chocolate espresso cake. But as good as it was, I can easily say it was not the highlight of my lunch. But something has to take that mantle, and the espresso cake is it. Thick, chocolaty and moist, it was SO dense that I truly had trouble finishing it at all. It was tasty, please don't misunderstand me. But it was the least memorable of my three dishes. This says more about how good the salad was and less about the cake, since I am not a salad person.

So for about $20 for me (before tea, tax and generous tip), I had a remarkably delicious and inexpensive lunch at one of the loveliest "business lunch" places in town - with, I might add, excellent service (kudos to our waiter and the staff). But with the generous amount of meat I got at The Capital Grille, could my system really tolerate a possible trip to Fogo de Chão?


diningdish said...

Capital Grille does a great lunch, especially for Restaurant Week. Tom and I took the subway downtown on Friday. We couldn't even attempt the dessert so we took it home with us.

Were you there Friday?

John said...

It had to have been Wednesday that I was there, because I was thankful my paycheck was coming soon so that the dent from lunch would be minimized! :)