July 24, 2010

The Capital Grille Los Angeles

Is there such thing as a foodie karma? I think there is.

An envelope arrived in the mail for me at work from The Capital Grille, inviting me to a complimentary preview dinner before the grand opening of their Los Angeles location at the Beverly Center.

How the heck did I get on THAT mailing list?

True, I have written to a lot of restaurants all over LA to ask for silent auction donation item for work. So maybe instead of throwing out my letters, somebody actually put my address in their database? Or do I have a secret admirer who toss my name and address from my business card into the mix?

It doesn't matter. I got an invite to, after I've been there, what looks like to be the next hot spot in town. And I'm going!

A holler to my boss/BFF later, reservation was made for a girl’s night out.

We arrived at 7:30 and it was packed, partly because of the preview but also because the protest on Sunset Boulevard set off traffic jam everywhere and everyone ahead of us was late. The wow factor was there alright from the d├ęcor to the diners to the service staff.

Elegant old school steakhouse but updated to be sleek. We were just missing cigar smokes.

The service crew were all beautiful people. I mean, I almost wanted to bet that even their line cooks were underwear models or something at this rate! The servers and hosts were all well groomed, very formal composure with added Southern Californian warmth. The warmth, though, seemed forced—some were holding back and some were putting on more so they came off a little Stepford Wife-ish. But it could be because they were all trying to keep cool on a very busy soft opening.

Since our reservation ran late, we were pointed to the bar where we were served complimentary samples of their pineapple-infused vodka. Gotta love a potent potion masquerading as harmless pineapple juice!

Since the Boss Lady is allergic to alcohol, I ended up with both of those. And those little flutes weren't kidding around. I had to decline the list of wine picked by their master sommeliers at dinner time to make sure that I wouldn't fall off the tall bar chair where we were seated.

That was another downer. We were situated in a tucked away corner of the bar, peering with envy through glass wall into the dining room and open kitchen.

The light was dimmed but not dark. Well, dark enough that I couldn't talk any picture of my food with my phone. I wonder if that was planned....hmm....

The capital grille preview menu

So after trying to take the picture of the oysters, I did put the phone away for the rest of the meal. You guys will have to use your imagination.

Our preview menu was limited but we were told that we could order some things on the regular menu. Figured that we’d have to take half our dinner home anyway, we threw in an order of half-dozen oysters on the half shell on top of our appetizer selection of Wagyu beef carpaccio with arugula salad lightly dressed in lemon vinaigrette, topped with shaved parmesan.

The oysters were huge and tasted like the ocean. The carpaccio was delicate and melted in our mouths with a hint of curry or some spices on the crust.

The Boss Lady, a healthy eater most of the time, started to think about ordering fish. But she easily changed her mind to the Delmonico Steak after our server Natasha told us what it was. The steak is a highly marbled gargantuan cut just shy of a Porterhouse, dry aged, rubbed in porcini mushroom and 12-year-old aged balsamic. Natasha also suggested that it was to be cooked medium instead of the usual medium rare to get all the juices in the fat flowing. And oh my god was she right!

The steak was HUGE! What, did I land in the alternate universe version of Big Texan? Good golly. And the flavors. My GOD the flavors! It was like magical beef-flavored butter! Unicorns and Double Rainbow Oh my God good.

An absolute winner and totally craveable…which kind of sucks because at $45 a pop, it is quite an expensive habit to develop. Just sayin'.

Since Natasha was a recent transplant from Australia, I had to ask for her thoughts on the double cut lamb rib chops. She started tearing up as she talked about how the lamb tasted like home and smelled like her mom’s kitchen. She didn’t even have to tell me about the cherry mustard accompaniment (which, by the way, made me forget any and all mint sauces) because I was sold. Any lamb that can bring tears to the eyes of an Aussie, I’m in.

The big meaty chops came frenched and interlocked for presentation. The meat was tender, juicy, and with just enough lamb-y flavor to distinguish it from beef. The cherry mustard provided the zip and zing as you go along. If I didn’t have my braces, I would totally pick up the double bones and gnaw every morsel off in the middle of this high-end steakhouse--a notion that Natasha also agreed.

For a side dish, since spinach is my braces’ mortal enemy, we went with the Vidalia onion rings. Light, crispy batter with fat, juicy, sweet onion slices cooked to perfection made an addict out of the Boss Lady.

We did leave room for dessert, expecting something spectacular. At first we were a little deflated that 2 cold bowls of mixed berries in mascarpone cream (I think?) were served. But a bite into it, we were suddenly grateful to have something refreshing and on a lighter side to wrap up a beast of a meal.

To our surprise, for having had us waited for our table, our oysters were comp’ed. Score!

The price is steep but for the experience and the quality of the food, it was worth making a special evening out of it. Hell, the Delmonico alone is totally worth a few Hoover flags.

Put money in your piggy banks, kids, and break it wide open for a meal at The Capital Grille. You will not regret it.

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