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First look: The Capital Grille in downtown Fort Worth

Posted 3:14pm on Wednesday, May. 23, 2012

And now,  the age-old question rears its mighty head again: Do we really need another steakhouse? And if so, do we really need it in downtown Fort Worth? Can our city really support another high-dollar beef palace?

Getting right to the point - oh, heck, yeah.

The Capital Grille, which opened last Thursday at the corner of 7th and Main Streets, has every reason to expect success. And yes, I realize it was terribly nervy of the Capital Grille owners to plop their beauty of a restaurant next door to what has long been the pinnacle in prime steak dining, Del Frisco's, and smack across the street from another big beef name, Ruth's Chris.

But as Adam Jones, owner of Grace which is right across the street, says: "There's plenty for all of us." (He better hope so. Grace serves a gorgeous prime, dry-aged, bone-in rib eye goes $49).

Lots of people wonder from whence the patrons for all these expensive restaurants are going to come. But the truth is, they're already here: Fort Worth brings in 5.5 million leisure and business travelers a year, and of the 13,000 hotel rooms the city has for them, nearly 2,500 are downtown. Those are people who are on trips, and can often justify spending a bit more on good food.

Based on my experience at Capital Grille's opening night last week, they're going to enjoy plenty of good food.

I've been to The Capital Grille in Dallas' Uptown neighborhood several times, so I knew the caliber of steak, fish, appetizers and wine would be superb. Capital Grille has 46 locations (this is the fourth in Texas), and though I'm reluctant to endorse most chain restaurants, I have to admit this company keeps very high standards.

That was confirmed at the Fort Worth restaurant with the first bite of my caprese salad, a generous plate of freshly pulled mozzarella, shaped into plump discs and arranged between slices of deep red, juicy tomato and sprigs of fresh basil. The plate was blessedly not overly chilled from being locked in a refrigerator holding pattern. This was clearly made to order to ensure maximum flavor.

My entree was a magnificent portion of sushi-grade tuna steak, seared in sesame oil and served rare with ginger rice and three Japanese dipping sauces. It was easily as impressive as any beefsteak. Far larger than anyone can eat in one sitting, it went home and became the top for a salad the next day. I was sad only that I couldn't take home an extra glass of The Violinist, the Australian Verdelho, a textured but light white wine that was ideal with my salad and fish.

Capital Grille's signature bone-in, Kona-crusted dry-aged sirloin was drizzled in a little shallot-teased butter, and it left me breathless. This dish is always a show-stopper, and impossible to eat in one pass. The ideal side for it is grilled asparagus with lemon and sea salt, if you're trying to be somewhat virtuous, but the creamed corn with nubbins of crispy applewood-smoked bacon is what you want if you're leaving all caloric caution out there on Seventh Street.

As my friend and I watched the theater around us, we marveled at the renovation of a former parking garage in the Oncor Building. Elegant chandeliers and sconces, dark wooden partitions and columns, pale vanilla lighting that bathes everyone in a flattering glow and tables spaced smartly apart add to the rich setting. Best of all, I noted a crew of favorite servers newly arrived from other restaurants in town, coming together to compose a seasoned staff.

Making this Capital Grille a place that locals will appreciate perhaps a bit more, the walls will be hung with portraits of some local notables, including Ben Hogan, Ginger Rogers, Davey O'Brien and Amon Carter. Also, we saw more than a few folks streaming in directly from the Byron Nelson tournament in their galley duds - yep, ball cap, shorts and tennis shoes. So the atmosphere can be casual. The hospitable staff didn't bat an eye, treating each guest as though they were decked out in Dolce & Gabbana.

That's not to say the menu prices are ball-cap appropriate, though: Steaks and fish entrees average $40-$42, and my glass of wine was $16. But at Capital Grille, I think you're getting your money's worth.

Find it at 800 Main Street. Open for lunch, Monday through Friday and dinner nightly. 817-348-9200. www.thecapitalgrille.com.

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