Last year, Frank Bruni was underwhelmed at Capital Grille. Later on, the usually dependable Bob Lape of Crain’s awarded two stars, which had me mystified. In September of this year, a vendor had suggested dinner, and I said my preference was a steakhouse. I grimaced when he suggested the Capital Grille, as I presumed Manhattan has much better to offer. However, he was buying, so I kept my thoughts to myself and trudged uptown.
A wet-aged Delmonico (bone-in rib-eye) was done to the medium rare that I’d asked for, but as Frank Bruni put it, “lacking the kind of crisp, charred exterior that would have given the flesh more variation from edge to center.” A smoked salmon appetizer and creamed spinach side dish were competently executed, but unmemorable.
I should add that all three of my companions ordered fillets, which appeared to have the charred exterior that my rib-eye lacked. However, a follow-up visit about a month later (again, someone else’s idea) confirmed my initial impresions.
Capital Grille has a slightly updated version of the classic steakhouse décor (mahogony surfaces, oil paintings). Service was slightly superior to the average steakhouse, including a genial waiter who explained the menu in considerable detail. The restaurant put us in a booth, and for four businessmen it was a bit cramped.
Having said all that, Capital Grille illustrates the maxim that it’s awfully tough for a steakhouse to fail in Manhattan. Despite executing the steakhouse formula with no particular distinction, the place was packed. Its location (practically adjacent to Grand Central) is well suited to weeknight diners who need to make a quick getaway to suburban homes.
Capital Grille (155 East 42d Street near Lexington Avenue, East Midtown)