Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Capital Grille: Not a Capital Experience

I really wish that this review was positive. I had every intention of writing a glowing review of this classic steakhouse, but by the end of the meal...really by 10 minutes into the was clear that my review would be negative. Bunker and I ate at The Capital Grille about four years ago. We loved the classy ambiance, every bite of food was scrumptious and perfectly prepared, and every interaction with the attentive waitstaff was unforced and pleasant. Therefore, at the end of a very long week for both of us, we wanted to treat ourselves to a delicious and filling meal in a rather cushy setting. Based on our previous experience, Capital Grille seemed like a safe bet. Sadly, although we paid a pretty penny for our meal, it was not worth much.

We arrived about five minutes early for our 8 pm reservation on Friday night, and it was incredibly crowded, which is always great to see. I am always a bit suspicious if I walk into a restaurant and it is basically empty. I do love the feel of this place. It is warm and inviting and has the aura of a private New York City dinner club, and as it is in The Crescent, a Dallas icon, it leads one to expect a classic and memorable dining experience.

The Bar:
So, we walked into the entrance and up to the host stand. After waiting for about five minutes for someone to greet us, the host told us that our table was being put together, but that we should go to the bar for a drink and he would come and retrieve us shortly. I was a hostess once, I understand that hosting is not the most fun job, and I also understand that you lie to diners, but you at least base that lie on a little truth. I wish this host had at least hinted to the fact that they were running behind, and that what he actually meant by "putting our table together" was that the people in our table were just now eating their entrees! Oh well, Bunker and I are never ones to turn down an opportunity for a drink in a bar, and I love this bar. It is dark, masculine, and romantic; like a study in some old English country house; a study used to study Brandy or Port rather than books and papers. Anyways, you should go to the bar, it is a delightfully warm and comforting experience with attentive and engaging bar tenders, but then, go somewhere else for dinner.

Finally, we arrive at the table:
About 40 minutes after our reservation time had come and passed, we were led to a cozy booth towards the back. Oh how I love booths! Things seemed to be starting off on a great note, and I was starving at this point. Edging our way to 9 pm, we finally saw our waiter, who seemed beyond frenzied, but tried to cover this with a sycophantic affect, something that just rubs me the wrong way. He tried to take away my glass of wine which still had quite a bit of wine left from the bar! He eventually knocked it over, luckily after the wine was mostly gone. We ordered a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay, and he insisted we give him the corresponding number on the menu rather than the actual name, I guess did not know the wine list. About 20 minutes later he finally returned with the correct wine, but not the correct year, but we decided to just hang onto the bottle, lest we wait another 20 minutes for another bottle of wine! About 30 minutes after the wine arrived, he finally got the ice bucket that we asked for. He also seemed very offended when we dared to pour our own wine into our own empty glasses (glasses that had been empty for a while)! I guess he wasn't too offended, because after that he never poured our wine again, mostly because he hardly came by the table.

I will compliment the bread basket. The bread was warm, incredibly fresh and offered a variety of flavors and styles. We were given only a tiny slice of butter. Bunker and I are true believers in the fact that butter does make everything better, so that little slice of butter disappeared quickly.  Our waiter was emphatic that he would bring more butter right away. Well, we didn't see him again until our main courses arrived. So much for the butter.  

As for the food:
Bunker ordered both specials. For an appetizer he got the scallops wrapped in prosciutto with seasonal vegetables, and for his main course he got the lobster tail and sirloin. The scallops were rather dry and the vegetables were rather sad looking. The whole dish seemed like something from a Top Chef quick fire, where the idea is there for a potentially successful dish, but the chef ran out of time and just had to throw everything on the plate. It was crying for seasoning and a sauce to pull the disparate parts together. His entree was not bad at all, but also not great. When the bill came, it was clear that the waiter quoted a much lower price for this special. I do not think he did this intentionally, I think he was overwhelmed and was unable to give us his full attention.

My food was not great. I ordered the Filet Mignon, it is what I always order at steak restaurants, and I always order it Rare Plus. I learned this term years ago at Al Biernets, an iconic Dallas steakhouse. I used to always order my steak medium rare, but it was just a bit too done for my taste, and so I asked one night for medium rare, but closer to rare than medium. The waiter that evening told me how to order my steak from then on, and every time since then, I have ordered my steak rare plus, and every time it has been perfectly red  and warm in the center....key term being warm. So, I ordered my filet at Capital Grille rare plus, the waiter hesitated and I said, yes, I want my filet rare plus. When it finally came out, it looked beautiful on the outside, but then I cut into it, and it really looked completely raw, like how you would sear a tuna, black and blue. But I thought perhaps it was the lighting, and so I took a bite, and my goodness, a large part of the center was icy cold. Icy cold! So I very politely told the waiter that my filet was more raw than rare plus, and that I would like it cooked a bit more. He seemed obliging, and then returned with my steak after Bunker had pretty much finished his, he sat it down and asked "So let me know how you think it is done now?". Ouch! That was just rude. I know what rare plus is...and a cold raw steak is not rare plus. I will say that the steak was very good when it was returned, still red in the the center but warm.

As for the sides, what an after thought! We ordered creamed corn and mashed potatoes. They came out when my steak came back out after being refired, a good 20 minutes after our initial entrees were sat down.

I will say that the waiter knew we had been rather neglected the whole evening, and so he brought us two desserts for free. I wish restaurants would at least ask what desserts you wanted rather than just giving you what they have extras of in the kitchen. Neither Bunker nor I are huge dessert people anyways, so we didn't really even want them. But the waiter brought me their "famous" Coconut Cream Pie. It might have been great, but no amount of accolades will ever make me like anything with coconut in it. Bunker, my husband who doesn't really like sweets and really doesn't care for chocolate, was given the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. So, we boxed up the chocolate cake and took it to my dad today, someone who does love sweets and chocolate!

In Conclusion:
Bunker and I honestly laughed about what a failure of a night it was at a few points in the meal. I will say that the support staff was on the ball, our water glasses were constantly filled to the brim. I think our waiter was in way over his head, and at some point, he should have asked for help. Instead, he left us feeling superfluous and almost like inconveniences to his evening. In a vibrant restaurant city like Dallas, with as many fabulous locally owned restaurant choices as you can imagine, a large number of those being steakhouses, a large chain like The Capital Grille might be superfluous, and it has certainly lost us as customers.  

1 comment:

  1. Hello Suzie, I am the Brand Manager for The Capital Grille. I apologize for your experience. The restaurant will be contacting you directly about your experience. Would you be kind enough to provide your contact information at
    ? Also could you confirm if you were at the Dallas location?