Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Capital Grille -Naples Restaurant Review

“It just doesn’t get better any than this”, the lady sighed, after dessert. “Our first time here, and we’re gonna be regulars." We felt the same way. The Capital Grille rocks. Service and proper cooking of the steaks and seafood were tops, and that's on opening night!

I like going to places' opening nights. Briefly, though. I’ll see who shows up, catch the buzz, try the passed app’s, and leave the crowd after an hour or so. The Chamber of Commerce was there with gleaming name tags, and others scoped out the new kid on the block. Huh? People wearing name tags in Naples, and not the usual hungry horde of realtors? That’s rare! With local celebrities at the ribbon cutting and later mingling inside, it felt like being in a small town.

Commissioner Frank Halas, Lisa Wilson, Peter Lopez
The Capital Grille’s complimentary lollipop lamb chops and lobster/crab cakes were flavorful. Strangers soon started talking to other strangers-that's Naples' small town style.

The Capital Grille feels like a turn of the century men’s club, with red mahogany wood paneling, burnished brass rails, and tasteful beveled and etched glass accents. In that era, guys smoked stogies, talked of film starlets, and lost count of their cards and drinks, with no one keeping score. Not today. The 12 point deer heads still watch from above, however there's wireless A/V business luncheon’s talks, and the ladies can outnumber the gents. A couple of early 40’s flirting beauties’ smiling faces showed they were pierced by Dr. Beau Tochs’ seductive charms. Welcome to Naples, 2008.

The Grille has an intimate scale and warmth, yet holds over 200. The long bar area seats 32; conversation is easy. I mentioned to Lisa Wilson, Capital’s friendly marketing maven, that I've cooked for charities. We were early enough to be seated in the choice “catbird seat”, a 4-top with a panoramic view of the gleaming open kitchen. Yes! Chefs and cooks worked magic, amidst leaping flames. No secrets on this kitchen stage. No “10 second rule” here, either! A dad took his son on his shoulders to see the show.. The boy’s jaw dropped, mesmerized by the fast paced action, as if eye to eye with a wall sized ant farm.

The Calm before ShowtimeAll eyes were on us, when our two-tiered Grand Plateau ($96) arrived. The bottom layer has eight fresh half shell Duxbury oysters, bathed with Massachusetts’salty-sweet liquor. Another eight perfectly cooked large shrimp, and a trio of sauces- Mild horseradish, cocktail, and mignonette- awaited our delight. The upper level held two cooked North Atlantic lobster’s opened tails and cracked claws, alternating with fresh, sweet Alaskan king crab legs. The lobster recalled the freshness I’ve once had, dining on a Gloucester boat’s fresh catch. The mignonette sauce's, shallots, wine and cracked black pepper had a pleasant mild acidity. My favorite, the creamy white horseradish sauce, nicely complemented the seafood’s sweetness. Hot butter followed, upon our request.

Sommelier and Manager Philip Holcombe and I reviewed the stars of the 370 wines in the glass walled wine cellar. I chose the Oregon 2006 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir, for pairing with seafood and steak. Most wine categories on the wine list started at $30, pretty easy on the wallet for four glasses, and quality was evident at every level. Knowing the retail prices on some of these- the Stags Leap, Cakebread, 2005 Caymus Cab and even the Lynch-Bages 2004 Bordeaux for $210; the mark up is conservative for Naples, and to your benefit. Somehow we passed up the Lafite-Rothschild Premier Grand Cru, Pauillac, ’89. A favorite drink is the Stoli Doli, with Stolichnaya vodka and fresh squeezed pineapple juice.Other drinks include the Appletini, and the Bohemian, with Absolut Peach, champagne, fresh berries and Bottlegreen Berry cordial.

Our server, John Svoboda, looked familiar. Yep, he’s been at other high end spots in Naples. He knows the Capital Grille's dishes well, and made spot on suggestions. Over 800 experienced servers applied for 30 openings. That’s odds as tough as for vet or med school. He started us with the heaping portion of crispy Pan-fried calamari
with mildly hot cherry peppers (13), full of rich seasonings and succulent taste. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and savor each crunchy bite.

My Porcini rubbed Delmonico Steak with 12 year aged Balsamic (42) was bursting with bold taste. The 14 day aging, the rub of mushrooms, salt and pepper, and 1600 degrees of searing heat gave the beautifully marbled steak a glorious dark crust and just pink center. Order it medium rare or medium, to best show off the perhaps 14 oz. cut’s sensually aged and spiced delights. Another diner said of his, “This is out of this world”.

The Dover Sole special (33), stuffed with Alaskan king crab, is served on a corn kernel broth, with a bottleneck clam quartet. The fresh fish is ethereally light and delicious. A true Dover sole is hard to find, fresh or defrosted, especially at this price. Others enjoyed the Seared citrus glazed salmon (31), and the Sliced filet mignon with cipollini onions and wild shrooms (42).

My eyes can be bigger than my appetite, when ordering. Pamela lovingly calls me "El Gordito", when I take a break from dining. It means “Adonis”, in some language. For sides, the Au Gratin potatoes (10) thinly sliced, are bathed in a delicious cheese and cream sauce, topped with crispy panko and crushed potato chips, then baked with a tasty, bold seasoning. It's FULL of flavor! The Capital Grille au Gratin recipe? Not so quick! A touch of white pepper or mustard, and the right combination of a few of these should do the trick-sharp cheddar, a melting cheese like Swiss Gruyère, Fontina, or Emmenthaler, a blue cheese to kick it up, Parmesan, mild cheddar, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack. Let me know your thoughts on the your favorite cheeses, with your comment, below!

The Lobster Mac n’Cheese (14) is a must try, luscious with tender chunks of lobster and a quartet of melted cheeses, (said by Chiara Assi to be grana padano, havarti, mascarpone, and topped with white cheddar), not overwhelming the delicate lobster. This raises a favorite comfort food to an elegantly new level.

The Parmesan Truffle Fries ((9) are almost erotic- hot crunchy-crisply fried and tender inside; the truffle oil adds a level of subtle richness. Eat ‘em as soon as they hit the table. Go bold with the Delmonico steak and Au gratin potatoes, or, go milder with the delicate Dover sole with lobster mac n’cheese; either is pleasing.

Proprietor/Managing Partner Peter Lopez came by the tables, and we talked about cookery, kids, camping and travels. A fun, well rounded, down-to-earth guy. Maybe his young sons will share some cooking tips!
We paired the crisply sweet Inniskillin Riesling with our desserts. A tawny port or jerez would also do fine. The Chocolate Hazelnut Cake (9) was this chocoholic’s favorite. A wedge sized for 4 people, the moist chocolate cake is layered between an almost pudding-like chocolate mousse, with hazelnuts on the chocolate icing. A crème anglaise is a bonus, great for dipping each mouthful of heavenly chocolate.

The Cheesecake with Berries (8) is a delight, not too rich, not too fluffy. Take in the crunchy caramelized sugar topping and graham cracker crust bottom with every bite. The rich red sauce is an intense reduction of fresh raspberries, strawberries, and port wine, bathing the picture perfect sweet blueberries and strawberries.

Another table had the Dark Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwich dessert with sauce- we’ll try that next time.My only “complaint” of the evening? Several peoples’ cell phones were in a “dead zone”, while in and just outside the restaurant. A good thing at times, unless you're an obstetrician dining out on a full moon. It’s a retro thing these days, enjoying an uninterrupted, cell phone-free fine meal with companions.

The Capital Grille is in their groove..They’ve raised the bar for Naples steakhouses. Have lunch or dinner there, with a nice wine. Life in Naples can be very, very good.

The Capital Grille, 9005 Mercato Dr., Naples, 239-254-0640


Anonymous said...

Divine in every way...your photos are beautiful!

Ivan Seligman said...

Thank you.

I was there last week. Food and service are tops!