Bill of Fare
A dinner for two might look like this:
Lobster Bisque $13
2 glasses The Prisoner $46
Bone-In Kona $49
Steak au Poivre $48
Small Au Gratin Potatoes $7
Small Sauteed Spinach $6
Small Roasted Mushrooms $8
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Dismissing The Capital Grille as a bastion of business dining is easy. Big tables are suited for comfortable seating. Wine lockers are obvious as you check in, bearing the names of recognizable Rhode Islanders. Steaks are big and pricey. It all makes it feel like a private club.
But there is a gentility here that elevates dining to an art. With service that is impeccable, stunning views of the Providence river basin and the skyline, and a menu that allows you to dine how you desire, The Capital Grille offers a refined atmosphere for all. It’s hard to match the cachet they bring to the table 27 years after they opened.
In August 2015, the restaurant moved from the Union Station address they occupied for 25 years across the street to the space formerly occupied by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The move to the IGT building gave them a bigger space with a larger bar area, two function rooms, an outside patio and that view that includes watching the sun set over Providence. The number sitting in the dining room hasn’t changed, still 240, but the room is airy and the tables are distanced from one another.
It’s one of the ultimate special occasion restaurants.
On a recent Tuesday night the restaurant was busy, but within seconds a bread basked arrived. It contained four varieties: Armenian flatbread (my favorite), a ciabatta, golden raisin pumpernickel and a multi-seeded roll, plus sweet butter. It sets the tone for the meal.
Perhaps it was having so many men around, weeknights are often dominated by business diners, said managing partner Christopher Phillips, but I started with a Manhattan. It was traditional and perfectly made and sipping it allowed me time to read the menu and then use the restaurant iPad to select a wine for dinner. More on that wine program later.
I was impressed that though I craved a steak, it was far from my only option. I could have an herb-roasted chicken with mushroom risotto, or a variety of fish dishes including sea bass. Soon that fish will disappear and halibut will be on the menu as it changes seasonally, another thing one doesn’t always anticipate at a steakhouse.
To start, we had one of the most delicious lobster bisques in memory. Not only was it creamy and perfectly seasoned, it had large pieces of lobster placed on top in a most elegant way.
While debating dinner options, executive chef Matt Haist sent out a sample of lamb chops to try. What flavor and tenderness the lamb had, making that another great dinner option.
We opted for two steaks: a dry-aged New York Strip Au Poivre with Courvoisier Cream and a Kona Crusted dry-aged New York Strip with Shallot Butter. That coffee-rubbed steak was tender as could be. I also liked the sauce that bore the robust oniony flavor from the shallots. It was almost hard to believe it was the same style of steak served for the au poivre, covered in black peppercorns. For that dish, the meat was more rugged and less tender, to hold up to the pepper. Both steaks were excellent in every way.
The steaks were beautifully complemented by the four side dishes we ordered. All side dishes are meant for two or more, but you can order half portions if you want a variety and that is what we did.
I loved the sauteed spinach, which was made with a garlic confit. The garlic was cooked before being mixed with the spinach for a wonderful flavor that was subtle. The Parmesan Truffle Fries were one of the best versions I’ve tasted, with the potato flavor allowed to come through. Too often too much cheese and oil ruins this side.
The Roasted Wild Mushrooms are the perfect accompaniment for a steak as they are as savory as meat. But you also need the creaminess that comes from potatoes and you can’t do better than the layers of Au Gratin which are topped with not just fried onions but also homemade potato chips. It’s amazing to have the soft potatoes and the crispiness in one bite. It’s a must-have, like the spinach.
As for desserts, I like the classics here. The crème brûlée is just lovely, creamy and served with fresh seasonal berries. Chocolate lovers will adore the Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake, which is moist and dense. I adored that bit of sweet after the dinner, especially with the fresh raspberries.
Mark Deland, whom I wrote about four years ago for a story about longtime servers, waited on my table. He’s now up to 20 years and as good as ever. Stellar service can elevate a meal at a restaurant. Here servers have made it a profession. They make diners feel special and create a warm familiarity. Understanding what a diner wants is something experienced servers sense and deliver each time they step up to a table.
He guided me to use the iPad to look at wines to pair with the steaks. It’s great because you can read the tasting notes on wines you might not know well.
I was shocked to see I could order a glass of Quintessa, a fabulous red blend out of Napa which is quite expensive. I didn’t order the glass, which I think was north of $80. But manager Bobby Silva came over to show me the restaurant’s new Coravin system. This system leaves the cork intact, releases about five ounces of wine, and infuses argon gas to keep the bottle fresh until the next glass is ordered. Phillips told me it allows the restaurant to order premium wines when they see a deal.
That kind of addition is one of many things keeping The Capital Grille at the top of the dining game and making it a contender when a special meal is what you seek. But don’t dismiss the idea of a burger or wedge salad for a lunch. The food, and the service, will be the same no matter the size of the check. And that is the mark of the restaurant that launched a chain 27 years ago that today includes 64 locations.
Details: The Capital Grille, 10 Memorial Boulevard, Providence, (401) 521-5600, thecapitalgrille.com and click on Providence.
Reservations. Valet parking for dinner. Garage parking in the IGT building. For the dining room: Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with brunch till 3 p.m.; Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch; Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner; Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m. for dinner. For the Lounge: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight; Sunday 4 to 10 p.m.
(401) 277-7266 On Twitter @gailciampa