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HAVING A COW

When dining out, do you like to be greeted three times, by name, before you are seated? Do you like to have someone refold your napkin every time you get up to use the bathroom? Speaking of the bathroom, do you like to have someone lead you there? Do you like to have the waiter give your leftovers to the valet, who delicately places them in the backseat of your car so you don’t have to be burdened with carrying them yourself?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your table is waiting at The Capital Grille. Enjoy your meal. If, on the other hand, you think that $200 is an outrageous sum of money for two people to spend on dinner at any restaurant — quality of service and food be damned — then you’re better off at almost any of the innumerable other steakhouses in this town, because you’ll leave The Capital Grille impressed with the service and annoyed with the prices. Just like I did.

So let’s get this out of the way: No steak served a la carte is worth $36. An excellent steak that came with two or more generous sides could fairly command that kind of money. But a slab of beef sitting there all lonely on a white plate? Not unless you are a lobbyist trying to buy Katherine Harris’ largesse.

Oh yeah, the food. In a word, it’s good. Notice I didn’t use “exquisite,” “otherworldly,” “masterful” or any other adjective that would convey the sense that dinner was worth two C-notes plus.

We started with a lightly battered, pan-fried calamari appetizer ($12) in which the salty crunch of the squid was nicely balanced by the heat of sliced cherry peppers. Topped with a squirt of fresh lemon, it was the best dish of the night; ahem.

A cup of French onion soup ($5) was unremarkable, as was the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. The latter didn’t quite cut it because I was expecting a wilted salad just like mom used to make, and what I was served was an unwilted salad with room-temperature dressing. Mom, by the way, never charged $7 for her salad.

All of which is a prelude to the aforementioned lonely slab o’ beef. Our waiter, Christopher (I know his name because he gave me his card), almost lulled me to sleep with a long tale of beef dry-aged in-house. There were so many options, cuts, sauces and crusts that I could not follow along. So I ordered the “Kona-crusted sirloin steak with caramelized shallot butter” ($36). My companion went with a porcini-rubbed filet mignon ($34).

Yes, these were fine steaks. No, they were not the best steaks I’ve ever had. The crust on the sirloin was a spicy mixture of coffee, pepper and sugar that tasted much better than it sounds. But for all Christopher’s talk of dry aging, the beef lacked the intense flavor and almost fall-apart tenderness of really top-shelf steak. Similarly, the filet was tender, juicy and more than satisfactory, but nothing different than cuts available at a dozen other places.

Add a skimpy side of creamy mashed potatoes ($4.50 for a half-order), a plate of roasted mushrooms ($9), two drinks and a bottle of wine ($54) and the total came to $190 and change. With a tip you are in a rarified realm of dining that had better be extraordinary. While the fastidious service and posh atmosphere were worthy of those prices, I can’t say the same for the cuisine.

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