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Almost in every episode of “Mad Men,” the advertising executives meet clients at an elegant, white tablecloth restaurant, sip a few cocktails, enjoy a good steak and seal the deal. The glamour of the business dinner is enticing, and now, you can have it here in Raleigh at the newly opened The Capital Grille.
The restaurant may be part of a nationwide conglomerate but it doesn’t feel like one. Instead, the fine dining atmosphere evokes an almost retro-sensibility, as if you might bump into Don Draper at one of the tables. It also says something about Raleigh’s growing reputation as an evolving major business hub in the Southeast. Many of the diners work in nearby North Hills offices; however, it also appeals to couples on a date night, families celebrating events, or anyone looking for an upscale, fine dining menu.
The rich wood of the bar and lounge, burgundy brick tiles and large teardrop pendant lights create a warm, inviting interior. The meeting rooms offer topnotch AV equipment but still present as intimate dining spaces. However, it’s more than the décor that appeals: the service, the food and, indeed, the entire experience are meticulously planned to cater to the most discerning guests, offering a sense that you’re entering a private club open to the public.
For a breath of fresh air and a more contemporary vibe, diners can head out to the patio, outfitted with heaters inserted into the ceiling, so it can be enjoyed year round. The comfy furniture provides ample space for conversation, and reservations aren’t required for the more casual setting, but the high level of service remains the same.
“Our servers are knowledgeable and personable,” says Executive Chef Matthew McNeely, who relocated to the Raleigh area from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. “We have a very extensive hiring process.”
Managing Partner Joseph Butler calls the service “anticipatory,” where wait staff assess what a guest needs before they ask for it. “Every day is an interview for us,” he says about the way they view the dining service experience with customers. “We have to deliver every time.”
They also put great emphasis on exceeding expectations on the menu: “We source only from the best purveyors, use the highest quality ingredients,” says Butler.
“We butcher all the meat in-house and seafood is flown-in daily,” adds the chef. “We taste every item every day.”
Steak is clearly the star of the menu and they are one of the only local restaurants that dry ages their beef. The meat is tenderized for 18 to 24 days in a special climate controlled locker that keeps humidity levels at 36 percent and the temperature at a constant 71 degrees. The process breaks down enzymes in the beef for a much more tender and flavorful cut. Filet Mignon, rib eye, New York strip—take your pick. For those who eschew red meat, the fresh seafood—including Chilean sea bass, seared tuna and lobster—offers plenty of delicious options.
Starting this month, McNeely will inject some of his own culinary background into a menu of specials. “Specials allow me to be creative,” he says. He plans to infuse the dishes with the Latin American and Creole flavors he experimented with in South Florida—Cuban-style food with bright, citrus flavors, avocado and papaya, for example. The Wine Director Blake Shelton (according to him he’s the original) often pairs wine selections with the dishes.
Of course, a dinner—business or pleasure—wouldn’t be complete without dessert. Raleighite and pastry chef Shanelle Lunsford prepares classics like the popular cheesecake with fresh berries, crème brulée, and flourless chocolate espresso cake. After all, what better way to end a meal and sweeten that deal.
A Perfect Match
Wine pairings for a few popular dishes
Bone-in Kona crusted dry aged NY strip with shallot butter
Sabragia Family Andosia Vineyard Cabernet
Sauvignon A complex style of Cabernet Sauvignon; flavors of rocky dusty earth, cocoa powder and espresso pair perfectly with the deep and dark qualities of the dry aged Kona Rubbed NY Strip.
Chilean sea bass with mushroom soy broth
Trimbach Riesling Bright but full bodied style of Riesling from a moderately warm climate displays hints of ginger and saffron which adds to the umami savory notes of the soy broth and mushroom while the high acid and crunchy mineral keeps the palate light and fresh for the delicate sea bass.
Double cut lamb rib chops
Bodega Emilio Maro Malleoulus Tempranillo The full flavors of the lamb chops needs a dense yet fresh red, such as a ripe Tempranillo. Macerated blue and black fruit acts as a sauce while dense earth of black rock, sweet tobacco and fresh acidity cuts the fat and richness of the lamb.
You can download The Capital Grille Concierge app for more pairings.
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