Charlotte is no stranger to fine dining of almost every culture and cuisine, especially when it comes to great steak houses. While many steak houses are celebrated in Charlotte, one in particular, the Capital Grille, exceeds expectations.
After reserving an 8:45 PM table for two in a specific area of their main room, I also asked for their most experienced, seasoned waiter. This was my only insurance policy against a potentially bad waiter ruining my evening with weak service. I got no less than I requested, but considerably more.
So often nowadays, restaurants fail at attention but exceed in pretension; style without substance if you will. This was certainly not the case with the Capital Grille. I arrived almost on the dot. I was greeted professionally and warmly. I felt both welcomed and expected. I was assured that my table would be claimed in a matter of less than 10 minutes. After a brief drink at the bar (and they do pour generously there) a young woman, menus in hand, greeted me by name and escorted us into the main dining room.
The restaurant exudes an air of old money and grandeur. John D. Rockefeller would feel right at home at almost any table. The atmosphere is turn of the century, members-only, private club. Great chandeliers, walls of dark wood complete with bank founder oil portraits and other power-brokers of yesteryear.
The dim lighting of this hallowed hall of prime aged beef is proudly anchored in the gilded age of European-American elegance. It is equally resounding in service. Although somewhat formal, grace and civility abounds here. Upon being seated in a comfortable booth, complete with a brass table lamp with embroidered shade, your eyes are drawn to the crisp table linen. The crystal is spotless, the china, flatware and cutlery pristine. This is legend; classic solid quality. Large menus reminiscent of the 1940's are politely presented. Their no nonsense wine list is extensive but well organized. We selected a mid-range Cabernet for later in the meal. This menu, while considered expensive by average tastes, is value for the dollar in my opinion.
Timing of courses is superb. The fresh oysters are large, ice cold and delicious. Their fresh shrimp cocktail is generous and like many great restaurants, Capital Grille uses colossal grade shrimp as their choice. The special offering soup selection was the lobster bisque. Served at proper temperature upon its arrival, our waiter offered sherry wine lace for the bisque, poured from a silver server; very old school. It was a symphony of cream, delicate texture and lobster pieces; excellent. This soup made the already enjoyed bread basket even more useful.
Almost euphoric with delight by this time, the main courses arrived with equal graciousness and attention to detail. A succulent 16 oz bone-in veal chop and a flawless 22 oz bone-in prime Delmonico rib eye; both served medium rare. Impressive and incredibly delicious would all be understatements. They were outstanding.
These two main courses were prepared so lovingly and perfectly that my taste buds were in a coma. I've only recently recovered. Fabulously tender, deliciously flavorful and appealing to the eye, this was steak at its finest. As if this wasn't good enough, our shared course, a perfectly prepared and de-shelled, two pound Maine lobster arrived with side dishes of gourmet broiled mushrooms and a dish of macaroni and cheese with...you guessed it, chunks of lobster in it as well. Call the paramedics, we can't take it anymore.
After a flute of champagne, courtesy of the house, desserts of creme brulee and strawberries with ice cream arrived. This "Grille" is indeed "Capital." It was a gloriously orchestrated symphony of flavors, service and ambiance. The end result is a sophisticated yet serene mood of elevation and total satisfaction. One comes out of the Capital Grille into the real world wishing everyone could get it this right.
Sharing a very limited stage where great dining is getting more and more difficult to find, the Capital Grille is a true dining experience that is nothing short of a masterpiece. Long may she reign.
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