Most of the noteworthy steak houses in Orange County are all part of a larger corporation with locations found all over the country. So, when I heard Capital Grille was coming to South Coast Plaza, I was pretty sure it would fall into the same category as Morton’s, Fleming’s, Mastro’s and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
I’ve been several times now and I can honestly say, I like Capital Grille! There have been some hiccups along the way, but they have delivered more often than not. I like how it has the feel of a traditional steakhouse, but manages to include little touches here and there, breaking away from the usual drab. boring, catering-to-the-old-boys’ environment.
From the moment I walk up the stairs and am greeted by the hostess/host, to being seated, my server arriving to introduce him or herself, I get a genuine feeling that they truly want to make sure my experience here is a positive one.
One of the frustrating things I find while dining out is when my server is clueless of what’s on the menu. This doesn’t happen here. On one of our visits, our server, Lorn is well versed on the menu and is able to clearly give explanations of dishes we had questions on. He didn’t give us a blank stare and didn’t tell us “I’m not sure, let me check for you”. Being able to give a concise description is the key to any great server! Personality helps too!
We started with the Lobster Bisque ($12.95) an item not always found on the menu but is always available — all you have to do is ask.
This rich, creamy, highly decadent soup is topped with lumps of lobster. Sherry is brought out separately and drizzled at the table, this way you can control how much or how little you’d like. Definitely a great start to a meal here and even my 10-year-old loves the bisque!
If you prefer something lighter there is always fresh mozarella, with heirloom tomato and fresh basil. Extra virgin olive oil and 12-year aged balsamic ($13) acts as wonderful additions to a simple yet tasty starter.
Portions are huge so I suggest sharing or you’ll end up eating a big heirloom tomato on your own. The fresh mozarella is soft and heirloom tomato flavorful. My favorite is the aged balsamic — so rich and deep in flavors with sweetness that can only come from years of ripening.
I wasn’t sure if we would be able to finish a 22oz steak, but Lorn highly recommended the Porcini rubbed Delmonico with 12-year aged balsamic ($44). It was definitely a huge piece of steak, but it was well worth it.
Cooked medium rare — perfectly pink — the porcini rub added a sophisticated finish to an already high quality piece of meat. The hint of balsamic was not overpowering and lends a sprinkling of je ne sais quoi to it.
With a huge piece of protein already intact, I decided to choose a lighter option for our other entree. Cedar planked salmon with tomato fennel relish ($34) — though farm raised — is cooked to perfection, and the flesh came away so easily with just a touch of my fork.
Usually, I’m never fond of cooked salmon, but when done right, it is sublime. The use of fennel with tomato is also genius, leaving a subtle fragrance, never overwhelming but adding a slight aromatic tartness to the fish without masking the main star of the plate.
Of course Lorn coaxed us into ordering a side of their lobster mac n cheese ($15) and I’m glad we did.
Like the bisque, there were chunks of sweet lobster in the Campanelle pasta (noodles shaped like little bells) tossed in a creamy sauce comprising of marscapone, Havarti and Grana Padano. All of this is placed in a baby skillet, topped with panko breadcrumbs and white cheddar and finished off in the oven till golden brown. Talk about debauchery at its finest.
Being as stuffed as we were, believe it or not, Lorn STILL managed to get us to order dessert! This is what a good server does! He tells you how luscious something is and you can resist him! With that said, his recommendation of cheesecake with seasonal berries ($9) is to-die-for. And yes, this comes from a self-proclaimed non-dessert lover.
This isn’t a dense New York-style cheesecake. This is a fluffy, light, cheesecake made with ricotta (I’m told) and hey, I’m sold! I ate more than one bite, so it MUST be good! The mixed berries are the perfect accompaniment to the sweet — and the cake itself wasn’t too sweet on its own — contrasted with a little tartness at the end.
Capital Grille is definitely the place to go if you love steaks. They age the meat in-house and it definitely comes across in the taste. It is a special occasion place, a happy hour place, or simply a place to grab some lunch while shopping at South Coast Plaza. In fact, that reminds me……… I need to come and try the lunch menu sometime.
The Capital Grille is releasing an exclusive, limited-production Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for its annual Artist Series Wine Event starting March 21st.
This 2007 custom vintage is only available at The Capital Grille South Coast Plaza and other The Capital Grille locations nationwide and $25 from the sale of each limited edition numbered bottle will be donated to Share Our Strength to help end childhood hunger in America.
Last year’s 1,000 case allotment sold out, raising $190K for Share Our Strength.
The Capital Grille
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626