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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Capital Grille: Mac-n-Cheese with Real Lobster!

We went to Capital Grille in the Beverly Center to redeem a coupon from a Los Angeles Magazine subscription. Prices are a bit exorbitant, I must say, especially for the quality of the food. But there's one thing I'll definitely be returning for -- the gloriously buttery and cheesy mac-n-cheese dotted with generous chunks of lobster.

Wow. It also came in an unusual pasta shape, Campanelle, a bell shape instead of the standard elbow macaroni. The Mascapone, Havarti and Grana Padano-based sauce was perfectly creamy and the panko breadcrumbs and grated white cheddar gave the dish the crunch and bubbly cheesy top that pulled it all together. The soft pieces of lobster felt like gems I bit into. It was odd that the pieces were so large since restaurants usually skimp on expensive ingredients. I guess I was conditioned to expect tiny pieces and looking through the little bell shaped pastas to find those specks of lobster. But not here.

The next best thing I had there -- Parmesan truffle fries. Ok, I didn't just have arteries-clogging things, I swear. More on healthier fare later. But these fries were good. I'm not usually a big follower of the truffle hype, but these had a good truffle aroma and dusted with shredded Grana Padano cheese, which is similar to Parmesan (hence the misnomer menu name). Fries were piping hot and crispy, just the way I like them.

The calamari appetizer was misleading on the menu but flavor was ok. It said pan-fried so we were surprised to find deep fried calamari smothered in the tangy and slightly spicy sauce. Even the online menu claims the calamari is sauteed in butter but maybe it's coated in flour or something because it definitely looked deep fried. Anyhow, we were just trying to be less unhealthy is all. The sauce was ok. I liked the modified version I made later for brunch when I added home fries.
The most perplexing dish was hands down the steak. This place is mostly a steakhouse. The decor, vibe and everything about it screams "old-school steakhouse-cum-power lunch place a-la DC (hence the name)." But the porcini rubbed Delmonico steak (named after the famed New York steakhouse's signature boneless ribeye dish) with 12-year aged balsamic vinegar (whatever -- I couldn't taste the difference) wasn't cooked right despite the insistence of our server. The dried porcini mushroom bits that it was encrusted with had basically charred into a jet black coating, which was beyond browned.

Our server insisted that was the way it was supposed to be and offered to give me a new one but when I saw that the inside was cooked medium rare properly the way I like it, I decided to take a bite first. The steak was ok but frankly the porcini rub didn't add much other than my having to scrape it off because it likely was carcinogenic. The meat flavor was good enough, but no match to the juicy ribeye I had at Jar or the mother of all steaks I had at Peter Luger's in Brooklyn.

We ordered the haricot verts with tomatoes and fennel to balance out all the fat and grease we were consuming. It was good but nothing special. After all, it's hard to compete with lobster mac-n-cheese.

Service was ok but not great.


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