The high-end steakhouse concept travels first-class nationwide, fresh seafood alongside. The Capital Grille at Roosevelt Field is a prime example. On a weekend night, the polished newcomer is as packed as the mall when Santa is in town.
Darden, "the world's largest full-service restaurant company," is based in Orlando. In addition to The Capital Grille, Darden owned-and-operated brands, through subsidiaries, include Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Seasons 52 -- a branch of which is a few doors minus several thousand calories north of the beef-and-reef bastion.
But the Garden City restaurant, where lion sculptures flank the gaslit entrance, does have some local angles. The polished-wood establishment is decorated with portraits that include Jackson Pollock in the bar; and Jacqueline Kennedy, first lady-edition, facing the main dining area. Charles Lindbergh looks in from a side room as if ready for takeoff.
Horsey, canine and fox-hunt images; deer and ram heads; and assorted Remington-look wildlife bronzes contribute to the clubbiness. Near the entryway: $350-annual-rental wine lockers, to store the cache you've purchased from the restaurant.
You'll be treated very well by an always smiling, unfailingly neat and exceedingly polite staff. No Damon Runyon characters. And no big surprises on the menu, either. The steaks and the seafood dependably are very good. Salads are generous; appetizers, ample. So's the tab.
Many squid meet their destinies here, fried to blondness, and boosted by hot cherry peppers. Lobster-and-crab cakes arrive rich and fine. The shrimp cocktail, of course, is a reliable catch.
But onion soup gratinée needs more depth of flavor; New England-style clam chowder, more seasoning; and both, a higher temperature. A little salt improves the namesake chopped salad.
No need, however, to tweak moist, satisfying grilled swordfish, accompanied by a lemon-shallot relish. Shallot butter delivers the shine to an excellent, bone-in, Kona coffee-crusted, dry-aged sirloin. A dry, porcini-mushroom rub minimally impacts the juicy Delmonico, here a bone-in rib eye finished with a trace of balsamic vinegar. Very tender, sliced filet mignon benefits from a bed of cipollini onions and wild mushrooms.
On the side, try mashed potatoes, Parmesan-truffle fries, nutmeg-fueled creamed spinach.
To conclude, consider either creamy cheesecake with berries; or tall chocolate- hazelnut layer cake.
Next stop: Mexico City.