Capital Grille: Setting A Top-Shelf Tone

When a Capital Grille comes to town, it is more than just the addition of a new restaurant. It's a statement that a city has arrived when its population appreciates top-shelf food and drink.

Well Capital Grille, welcome to Hartford.

Since opening its doors a few months ago, Capital Grille has helped set the tone at the Front Street entertainment district across from the Connecticut Convention Center and boosted a downtown development idea that is successfully unfolding.

"We feel we have come into a city that is getting ready to boom," says the restaurant's managing partner, Joe Butler. "And we hope locating here helps with that boom."

Besides being one of the first restaurants to open in the district that will eventually includes several eateries, the already open Spotlight Theatre and its Front Street Bistro, and in the spring, Infinity Music Hall, Capital Grille has become a destination dining spot for those looking for class; dry-aged, custom-cut, top-shelf steaks; and the customer service that the chain considers one of its most important features.

"Capital Grille is known for its attention to detail and making sure that guests never have to look for anything, always anticipating their needs," says Butler, who attended Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island and has been with Capital Grille for several years.

Beyond the impeccable service that includes tableside amenities and attentive waitstaff, there is the food.

The Capital Grille dining reputation is built on its carefully sculpted and prepared dry-aged steaks, steaks that are custom-cut each week to assure freshness and quality.

Prepared with the chain's own dry rubs, the lunch and dinner menus offer an impressive choice of steaks that includes melt-in-your-mouth sirloin, porterhouse or streak au poivre with Courvoisier cream, filet mignon and filet Oscar.

For seafood lovers there is the North Atlantic fresh lobsters, parmesan crusted sole with crab and sushi-grade sesame seared tuna.

Chef's suggestions are the restaurant's most popular dishes and include the seared tenderloin with butter poached lobster tails, pan-seared Chilean bass and porcini-rubbed Delmonico steak.

The menu is a la carte, with beef and seafood entrée dishes ranging from $34 to $50, with most around $45. "To share" sides include roasted wild mushrooms, parmesan truffle fries and creamed corn with smoked bacon, with prices ranging from $9 to $12.

The setting is sophisticated, smart and upscale. The lounge offers an array of top-shelf liquors and wines, including its signature "Stoli Doli" pineapple infused vodka, prominently displayed front and center on the sleek liquor shelves. When you walk in, check out the impressive 3,000 bottle floor-to-ceiling wine kiosk.

The dining rooms are done in subtle rich hues of red and umbre with lush banquettes and booths. The lounge, which includes tables for dining, is bright, large and open, offering those walking by a peek into the posh spot. And for those looking out from the lounge, there is an up-close look at the downtown streetscape.

Besides an extensive wine list and wine-locker program, the restaurant also offers its own classic cocktails, including the Classic Manhattan with Gentleman Jack whiskey and The 601 martini with vodka or gin and your choice of Grana Padano or stuffed Sicilian olives.

>>Capital Grille, 44 Front St., is open on Sundays and on most holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. There is no lunch on Saturday or Sunday. Dinner is served on Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Information: 860-244-0075 or thecapitalgrille.com