Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Capital Grille - Scottsdale

What a difference a day makes.

A couple weeks ago, Tara schlepped one of her bosses all over town. A couple trips to the car dealer and one to the airport. To show his appreciation, he offered her choice of gift certificates from various restaurants through his American Express rewards. The choices were a $25 one for Red Lobster, a $50 one for either PF Changs or Cheesecake Factory, or a $100 one for The Capital Grille. Being the uber-carnivore that she is, TCG was the obvious choice. Her boss warned us that we'd probably be spending at least an extra $50, but since we usually spend that much on a weekend dinner, it wasn't an issue. We decided to use it this weekend and had dinner there last night. I used OpenTable to make 8pm reservations at their Scottsdale location.

We arrived shortly before 8pm and took advantage of the valet parking, despite the gorgeous, almost chilly (for Arizona) night. We entered the restaurant and after the host finished a phone conversation trying to explain to the caller they were located directly under the huge blue spire (in the process, explaining what a "spire" was) at Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright, we checked-in. He explained that they were just starting to rotate some tables and were pretty much on schedule and that we could enjoy a drink in the bar and they would get us when it was ready. The bar was packed, so we found a spot along one of the walls of personal wine lockers near the host stand and waited. We had a great view of the kitchen area and the wait staff would rush by us carrying various orders. The smells were making us really hungry. While we waited, we noticed that any time someone asked the staff where the restrooms where, instead of just giving them directions, they would walk with them until the entrance to the restrooms were in sight. Nice touch.

As we waited, we enjoyed the people-watching that Scottsdale has to offer. Tara commented that she was definitely not showing nearly enough cleavage, judging by the other guests we saw. You can always tell when you are in Scottsdale.

After about a fifteen minute wait, a lady came over and apologized for the long wait. She said she was a manager and in appreciation of our patience, that our table would be ready shortly, and she was giving us a free appetizer once we were seated. This surprised us, as we could tell they were busy and weren't making a scene, just waiting. About ten minutes later, we were lead to a booth in the main dining room.

As we sat down, the hostess who seated us gave me a black napkin and took the white one that in front of me on the table. As near as Tara could figure, people wearing dark pants were giving dark napkins and light-colored pants kept the white one. This was a first for me. She handed us our menus, thanked us, and returned to the host stand. A bus person then arrived and asked if we wanted sparkling water or ice water. We both chose ice water and looked over the menu.

A bread basket containing slices of crusty baguette, pumpernickel, a seeded roll, and a crispy lavosh cracker was set on the table, along with a silver ramekin of butter. The pumpernickel seemed to have some sort of a fruit in it, adding a tangy flavor. The seeded roll was our favorite, with a nice crust and dense insides, with the toasted seeds adding a really great touch. The lavosh was very sweet and my second favorite of the basket. A second ramekin of butter was hidden at the bottom of the bread basket.

After deciding the the $45 cold shellfish appetizer would be woefully abusing the free appetizer, we settled on the lobster and crab cakes. Our waiter appeared after a few minutes, greeting us by name, and offered to go through the menu for us since it was our first visit. He also went through the specials for the night. One of them, the king crab legs, sounded really good. He also mentioned a lobster mashed potatoes dish, but it was part of another special and not a separate item. He left to get Tara a refill of water and we made our meal decisions. Tara went with a Kona-rubbed dry aged sirloin, a wedge salad with blue cheese, and the parmesan-truffle french fries. I went with the crab legs special, a bowl of lobster bisque, and the lobster mac and cheese. I had a feeling we wouldn't be leaving hungry.

The lobster and crab cakes arrived first. In another classy touch, we were each given a plate containing one cake, a corn salad on a lettuce leaf, a ramekin of remoulade, and a lemon half wrapped in a fine yellow mesh to prevent seeds from falling into our food. The cakes were wonderful. Large chunks of lobster, large enough that I could identify the part of the lobster they came from, were mixed with the crab and some binder. The remoulade set off the flavor very well. Tara absolutely loved the corn salad that came with it. Crunchy kernels of corn and a few herbs well-chilled with some sort of oil, it was nicely sweet. She immediately made a mental note of what she thought was in it so she can attempt it at home. These were a definitely keeper.

After we'd scraped up the last morsels of corn, crab, and lobster, our plates were cleared. Our waiter gave Tara a very nice steak knife, saying he always found it easer to eat the wedge with a sharp knife. He gave me a soup spoon for use with my bisque as well. A few minutes later, Tara's salad was brought out. She waited for my bisque before she dug in. And waited. A few minutes later, our waiter was walking by and asked if my bisque had arrived yet. Seeing that it obviously hadn't (the large, bowl-shaped void and unused soup spoon were a dead giveaway) he went to the kitchen and came back shortly with a large bowl of bisque.

The bisque was extremely hot. I let it cool for several minutes. As I stirred it, large chunks of lobster meat were visible. Claw meat, tail meat, and some knuckle meat. Once it cooled enough to eat, it was very good. Extremely rich, as all good bisques are. I enjoyed it a lot, as did Tara when she tried it.

Her wedge salad was a decent wedge of iceberg lettuce with a ton of blue cheese dressing nearly completely covered with bacon morsels. Three slices of tomato were on the side. It was a very good blue cheese dressing, with huge chunks of cheese throughout. Tara really liked it but thought there was just a bit too much dressing. I like lots of dressing, so it looked fine to me. She didn't quite finish it, so I polished it off for her.

After our empty plates were removed, new silverware was given to us in the form of another steak knife for Tara and a small three-tined fork for my crab. Our waiter and another server brought our dishes over and I could almost watch their silent 1-2-3 count as they timed it so that our plates were put in front of us at exactly the same moment. The sides were brought as well.

Tara's plate held a large piece of steak, very thick with a noticeable darkness to it from the rub. She loved it. It was perfectly cooked medium, with lots of juicy pinkness. I tried it and found it rather bitter from the coffee, but I'm also not a coffee drinker. Her parmesan-truffle fries were really good as well.

My plate contained a large pile of crab legs, all sliced in half length-wise, so I only had to pry the meat out. A small bowl of melted butter was along side. I tried the small fork once, but soon resorted to my well-honed lobster-picking skills instead. The meat came out cleanly and I was able to only get most of it with no problems. It was really good and the butter added just the right touch. My lobster mac and cheese came in a much larger portion than I expected, housed in a wide, shallow cast iron skillet. I can't remember the cheeses in it, but I believe one was fontina. I only had two bites of it, as by this time I was very full. Tara had a little more than I did and she really liked it. I enjoyed what little I had.

Once we were finished, I excused myself to wash the various crab/butter juices off my hands. When I got back, our leftovers were gone and being boxed up. The waiter brought us dessert menus and dropped the bag of leftovers beside our booth. Several of the desserts sounded really good, and we'd seen a few go by and they looked good, but we were both too full. When we informed the waiter we were done, he asked for our valet ticket and took that and the leftovers away. When he came back with the check, we looked it over and saw that the appetizer hadn't been comped. We mentioned to him and explained what the manager had told us. He apologized and said he hadn't been told and would take care of it. A few minutes later, he came back and said it was all taken care of, and he'd continued the free lobster theme and took the bisque off as well. This was certainly unexpected, and brought down our post-gift certificate total down from $47 to $17. Given the high-quality of the whole experience, we had no qualms leaving a $40 tip on our "$17" bill.

When we got to outside, our car was already at the valet stand with the leftovers on the passenger's seat. We tipped the valet and head on our way. We know The Capital Grille is a chain, but it's a very high-end chain. We enjoyed it from start to finish, and the outstanding customer service was much appreciated after the debacle we endured the night before.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Nice review! I'm adding Capital Grille to my "to eat" list.