Whew, had to get that out of the way before some folks got a full froth on.
It has been several years since we crossed the threshold at the local incarnation of this steak house chain, The Capital Grille, 2223 North Westshore Boulevard in the International Plaza. In the past we have been pleased with the food and service, so my bride and I decided to avail ourselves of the discount coupon before it expired.
We had reservations for 5:45 this past Saturday evening - not 6:00 or 5:44, or 5:46, but 5:45. We actually arrived a few minutes early, but there was little delay in getting us seated. From the hostess station to the table one of the things that impressed us the most was being called by name and addressed as Mr. and Mrs. That is a nice touch. We were still in their computer system.
Sharon was our most efficient and professional server. We were presented with water, menus, and a really delightful basket of crusty breads with softened butter. I feel snarkily compelled here to mention the butter wasn't encased in a foil wrapper à la Booger's Grease Burgers or Malio's Prime.
To wash down the breads and to accompany my half dozen Blue Points on the half shell, the Belle and I started our evening with a couple of glasses of a Zonin Prosecco.
The oysters were fairly well shucked with minimal mangling, and most still were swimming in that luxurious, salty liqueur from the sea. These mollusks needed no enhancements, but just in case, they came with a ramekin of cocktail sauce, and a ramekin of a savory mignonette.
I will concede that it could be due to the passing of years, but as we pored over the menu there appeared to be fewer choices offered on this visit than were available on our last visit. We were able to find a couple of entrées that our taste sensors felt were appealing.
My bride chose the Filet Dinner Special. This was a 10 ounce filet adorned with a delightfully crusty, Parmesan and horseradish topping.
She requested her filet to be prepared medium with a warm pink center, and it was. She was pleased.
I rarely have been tempted by a bone-in rib eye that I was able to refuse. This night was no exception, so I requested the Delmonico, medium rare, s'il vous plaît. I will now pick nits. A bone-in rib eye is usually referred to as a cowboy steak, while a bone-less rib eye traditionally carries the moniker of Delmonico. This is not a big deal in the over-all scheme, but I had to get a clarification from Sharon before I placed my order.
My rib eye was perfectly prepared to temperature, but the heart of the steak was devoid of the marbling that contributes to taste and tenderness. The closer I got to the bone, the better the steak. For $46 I would have expected something closer in taste and texture to the one that I swooned over at a Longhorn Steak House for half the price. Seriously!
The sides offered by the Grille are big enough for two or more, so thankfully the diner can order half size on most sides. My bride and I shared a small au gratin potatoes, and a small dish of overcooked French green beans (haricot vert) with a few chunks of "heirloom" tomato.
To enhance our dining experience we elected to go with Sharon's suggestion of a wine special, the Silver Oak, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that normally sells for $135, but tonight a mere $80. Truth be told, this was an exceptional wine with a dark, ruby color and a vibrant nose of black cherry, wisteria and sweet baking spices.
That $80 price is what you would pay at your neighborhood liquor emporium, so the original $135 is a rather huge markup. Just a little FYI for the oenophiles amongst us.
The Capital Grille wine list is rather impressive, especially if you are impressed with high prices. There appear to be way more pretentiously priced wines than ones in a more reasonable price range, but if you are dining on an expense account, who cares? We weren't. Even still, my experience has proven that the high priced wines (or anything else for that matter) do not necessarily equate to higher quality.
I was content to just finish off my Silver Oak while the Belle chose an ice cream trio to round out her meal.
Our dining adventure at The Capital Grille wasn't really spectacular, nor was it horrible. What is the expression...meh? It was about the same as most other chain or independent steak houses in the Tampa Bay area. If you've seen one menu, you have pretty much seen them all. As I have stated before, the sameness in this part of the gastronomic world is stifling.
Our total for the evening came to $239.68. After the $50 discount, $189.68. We based our 20% gratuity on the higher amount. To do otherwise is tantamount to stiffing the server.