As a restaurant critic, the most frequently asked question I get (apart from, "How do you stay so thin?" to which I facetiously reply, "I don't swallow") is where can I get a great steak? And my answer 'til now has been the usual recital of the excellent steak houses in our fair city...beginning with Wolf, Lee and Ari's excellent Cut in the Beverly Wilshire, to my old standbys of The Palm and BLT. For various reasons I am not a fan of Mastro's, I won't ever refer anyone to Wolfgang's (my review was two words, Puck 'em), and places like Arnie Morton's, Dan Tana's and Ruth's Chris leave me as cold as they are. I do note that it is possible to get a very good steak at such restaurants as Spago, The Foundry, Nick & Stef's, and The Grill on the Alley.
A porterhouse steak is the steak of choice in most fine steak houses!
Readers know that I judge a restaurant by three criteria: food, ambiance and service...the holy trinity of the discerning diner. Recently, I have been enjoying a new, steak house which meets my high standards on all counts with such elegance and aplomb that, frankly, I am dumbfounded. THE CAPITAL GRILLE (8614 Beverly Blvd., at San Vicente Blvd. attached to the Beverly Center (where the Hard Rock Café used to be, (310) 358-0650, with complimentary private free valet parking!) is that rare animal, a link of a national restaurant group which in all respects is its own person. I'll explain how a woman named Gina Doyle made this happen, but first to the food.
Let me whet your appetites - satisfying the primal urge inherent in most of us carnivores for a gargantuan hunk of juicy, rare beef. Prior to my first visit to The Capital Grille, when I made my reservation I asked if the chef could prepare a steak charred and blue? The woman on the phone laughed and said, "Just try him." Of course I did... and Chef Brent Jaegar came through with flying colors. Of all the cuts of steak which I favor, none matches the porterhouse, taken from the thick end of the short loin, containing a T-bone and a sizable piece of tenderloin. If you look at a porterhouse, there will be a larger piece of meat on one side of the bone and a smaller piece on the other. The larger piece, if stripped out, is the strip sirloin. The smaller piece is what is commonly (and imprecisely) called the filet mignon. These three - porterhouse, strip, filet - are the primary steakhouse steaks, all of which come from the hindquarters of the steer. (Yes, most steakhouse steaks come from a steer, not a cow.) The only other steak which usually appears in steakhouses is the popular ribeye-on-the-bone which, forgive me for stating the obvious, comes from the rib section of the forequarter. At The Capital Grille, when I didn't see a ribeye on the menu, I inquired of our waitress and she told me that here they called it a Delmonico (22 oz. for $43). We ordered one, medium rare, for 'research purposes.'
Managing Director Gina Doyle is the guiding hand behind this top-flight establishment.
On this first night at The Capital Grille, with my loyal reviewing team of Penny McTaggart and David Rapoport, we ordered a cornucopia of dishes from the menu. I was delighted when skilled waitperson Melanie brought out our sizzling porterhouse (24 oz., $46) on a hot platter. (I had requested that we carve it ourselves at the table rather than have it done in the kitchen). Yes, it was charred on the outside yet pink inside. Chef Jaeger came to the table to describe how the steaks are grilled over high heat 'til the desired degree of doneness, then briefly placed in the oven, rested for a few minutes, and carved in the kitchen before being dispatched.
David and I dug into our steaks while Penny pulled the two-pound Broiled Atlantic Lobster over to her side of the table and thanked Melanie for having the lobster meat taken out of the shell and then replaced in it. The side dishes filled the table, and we greedily dug into Lobster Mac 'n Cheese ($15), Roasted Mushrooms ($12), Vidalia Onion Rings ($9), and a dish of sensational Sauteed Spinach ($9). At which point, a friend stopped by our tablet to say hello; Todd Johnson, the G.M. of Lawry's The Prime Rib, was attending a Rotary meeting.
Lobster Mac and Cheese is one of the many delicious side dishes offered.
After dinner, Managing Partner Gina Doyle took us on a tour of the massive two-story establishment, pointing out the many private meeting rooms. This massive restaurant is gorgeous, from the inviting bar at the entrance to the terrace overlooking the Hollywood hills. There are paintings of legendary Hollywood figures adorning the mahogany-paneled walls, from Will Rogers to a young Mayor Bradley to Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones. An ironwork bald eagle with wings spread guards the entrance to the open kitchen, while bronze horses preside over the deep, leather booths. As Penny said, "This is a culinary theme park!"
A wrought iron Bald Eagle stands guard over the open kitchen!
As we left with the aroma of sizzling steaks in our nostrils and walked to the valet to pick up our car (no charge, imagine!), we already were planning our return. I explored the restaurant's background and found most of its meat was dry-aged, a subject which we can get into at another time. All meat is by definition aged, but there is dry aging and wet aging... most steak houses use the latter, which produces tender cuts but not necessarily flavorful ones. I have learned over the years to differentiate between tenderness and flavor. I find that most people think of the filet mignon as the best cut because it is tender, yet they are astonished when I say that it is usually boring, not particularly flavorful. The strip sirloin, on the other hand, is never as tender as the filet but usually has more flavor.
A Delmonico Steak is their version of the bone-in ribeye.
Desserts are the usual steak house standards, done brilliantly in house. The cheesecake was a fluffier version of the New York cousin which I grew up with, nestled in a vanilla wafer crust and garnished with sweet berries, a luscious strawberry sauce and bruleed (yes, as in crème brulee) with a crisp sugar crust. My favorite, apart from the handmade ice creams, was the Coconut Cream Pie, vanilla-flavored crust layered with whipped and coconut pastry cream, topped with a caramel rum sauce. Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Crème Brulee, Fresh Berries... yes! The wine list compiled by Master Sommelier George Miliotes has some 350 wines on it, a special 'Captain's Selection' of more expensive vintages, and I was told there are some 5,000 bottles in the racks around the restaurant. Yes, they do have my beloved Laetitia by the glass, bottles to come.
Desserts are the traditional steak house favorites lifted to delicious heights!
So, yes, when my readers now approach me with a question about where they can get a great steak, I begin my recital of choices with that new and exciting establishment on the northwest corner of San Vicente Blvd and Beverly Blvd, formerly a Hard Rock, now a steak house par excellence!
The Capital Grille is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:30 to 3:00 pm; for dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm, 11 pm on Friday and Saturday, Sundays from 4 pm to 9 pm, while the lounge and bar is open all day. There is a separate bar menu with lots of exciting little bites on it at reasonable prices.
To subscribe to Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter ($70 for 12 monthly issues), you can email him at email@example.com.