A few weeks ago we descended upon the Capital Grille like two children in tuxedo jackets and stock market shorts and polo shirts taking aim on the Chuck E. Cheese ball pit and ordered a gazillion calories’ worth of food for the sake of science, market research, and to drum up social curiosity about the new and amazing promotion out there, Wagyu & Wine, running until the 22nd. There were burgers, oh, the glorious burgers. But first, let’s order some cocktails on an iPad and talk about the omnipresent table mini-lamp that all restaurants should adopt into their optimal food photo structure. Get ready for some mad mac gifs, baby.
Yup, that’s an iPad; it serves some miraculous purposes- it replaces the sad pen lamp that people whip out at dim restaurants and while it doesn’t mimic the Sheetz model yet (MTO!) it does allow you to read cocktail descriptions which saves servers from hearing the same irritating questions over and over again, thus preventing their ears from imploding. It also allows for a sneak peak at other menu items. Fear not, though, the paper menu still exists, so we combined old-school and new to check out the ‘tails and ended up with the classic Stoli Doli and the Bedfellow’s omnipresent dirty, dirtied up even more with white anchovy and parm-stuffed olives. Damn, son. Each Cap Grille has the vodka-spiked pineapple and makes the olives fresh to order. We enjoyed our drinks with sheer gusto before the appetizers arrived, two brand new selections for autumn.First up on the docket, a massive slab of pork belly from Snake River Farms atop fresh smoked tomato jam with frizzled onions. Pork belly has evolved from a mid-07 high point to a low, omnipresent existence where everyone from Daniel to Dunkin’ had it and it suffered greatly. It is now back on the upswing and I’m happy to report it is getting some fine star treatment here- very tender, yielding meat with a smoky, charred exterior accentuated by the jam; distinctly appropriate in its nomenclature, I might add. It is decidedly not a ketchup. The onions allowed for a great crunch in each bite, too.Next up was a great beef tartare, aller-retour style with some excellent mix-ins that didn’t detract from the flavor of the beef at all. We’ve had diversified tartare before that has tasted like a meatloaf, but this delicately toed the line well enough to let the meat shine alongside pickled onions and truffled eggs as well. Far better than the New York location, so perhaps they’ve changed up the recipe.Our wine quickly arrived in some big-ass glasses and we toasted to weekday dates and butch braggadocio. For the unedified, this is the difference between Wagyu and Kobe. It’s hard to tell in a burger as the meat is ground and cooked with less marbling and caramelization than you would see on a steak, but these were some giant, solid fatty patties with a nice, dry-aged, funky flavor even on their own. The toppings were delicious, but the patties themselves were moist, stand-alone burgers. And burgers, of course, because there’s nothing better than pairing wine with cheese…burgers. First, a drippy breakfast burger with bacon, onions, baby lettuce, and a gorgeous fried egg atop a massive beef patty.Its ever-so delicate sibling proved to be equally beefy, with onion jam, heirloom tomato, gorgonzola, bacon, and arugula. Each burger was served with fries, both original and truffled parmesan, and more delicious tomato jam. And of course, as a side, a sizzling, deathly hot, delicious platter of lobster macaroni and cheese on top, extra claws, natch.The wines, a Paso Robles cab and a Sonoma pinot were plush and velvety, though we both preferred the pinot to the cab and found that both were better with the fattier, more unctuous flavors in the egg burger than the gorgonzola, which was tasty, but strong and rendered the more delicate flavors in the wine somewhat reedy amidst the acidity of the balsamic onions and cheese. We alternated (read: fought) over the first burger and finished off both wines with that.We finished off the meal with an absurd cheesecake and the ever-delicious flourless chocolate cake. The cheesecake was arguably our favorite. If you haven’t had this iteration, please give it a try, as it casts aside the dense New York cheesecake formula for a lighter, airier version with a creamy inner center and crispy, burnt sugar top. It’s deceptively filling and not at all sweet aside from the berry coulis. One of the more unique takes on cheesecake we’ve had at the corporate restaurants, and we were surprised to not have enjoyed it before. $25 buys you a burger and a generous pour of wine until the 22nd. You won’t regret it.
Much thanks to the crew at the CG for having us, as well as getting me to a point of social lubrication where I agreed to host my partner’s birthday at the ‘Grille. It was all because of that cheesecake.