Several months ago, some friends of my father who are vegetarians told him their favorite place to dine is the Capital Grille! They always go there for special celebrations and explained how the chef comes to the table and plans an excellent meal for them. This story piqued my curiosity. Why would a vegetarian love a steak restaurant? When I visit the Capital Grille, I often think about ordering something other than steak. Do I go with the usual Kona crusted sirloin, which is always excellent, or do I try something new like one of the delicious sounding seafood dishes on their menu. I always opt for one of the steak choices and then wonder if I was missing out. What if the seafood dishes were amazing? So on Columbus Day Monday, I set out for lunch at the Capital Grille to discover if a non-beef eater could be happy and satisfied.
     If you’re planning to have lunch at the Capital Grille on a holiday Monday, it’s important to note their typical lunch menu is not available. I knew ahead of time the dinner menu was being featured, but I noticed several people left after realizing they weren't able to order a sandwich or hamburger. Although I thought it was odd the lunch menu wasn’t available, it didn’t keep me from going.
     I had previously met Executive Chef Matt Haist, so when we got the restaurant, I told him the purpose of our visit. I was planning to order all seafood and explained my guest was a vegetarian. He was not intimidated by the challenge, however. He came to the Capital Grille from Hemenway's, one of Providence's renowned seafood restaurants. Both Chef Matt and the manager came to our table and explained how they handle a vegetarian’s request within their temple of beef. The chef always comes over to the table and offers several options - pasta and vegetables with infused oil; grilled vegetables with infused oil and ginger rice; or, as one of their regular patrons prefers, a giant raw vegetable platter. For a restaurant who builds its reputation on beef, the Capital Grille sure goes out of its way to cater to vegetarians.
     Before our meals came out, we ordered two of the Capital Grille's specialty martinis. I tried the Sweet Basil Gimlet, which was indeed sweet, and a bit too sweet for my taste, but what did I expect? Jen ordered the Capital Grille Cosmopolitan and proclaimed it to be very "smooth."  Chef Matt started our meal with an amuse bouche. It was a miniature portion of their Mozzarella and Tomato appetizer salad. He explained the restaurant is now making fresh mozzarella every hour and a half, so the mozzarella on your plate is guaranteed to be fresh. The cheese was creamy and delicious, and it was served in a stack with caramelized onions, a roasted yellow pepper, and a perfectly ripened slice of tomato. It was seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with a dab of 12-year aged Balsamic vinegar. We both commented how much we enjoyed the addition of the caramelized onions.
     For an appetizer, I ordered one of the specials, which was a Jumbo Lump Blue Crab cocktail. The sweet meat of the fresh crab was complemented by a thick Dijon mustard sauce. The presentation of the crab was stunning, as it arrived in a silver urn. The crab was good and very fresh, but I felt the Dijon mustard sauce slightly overpowered the delicate flavor of the crab.

Blue Crab Cocktail
     For my first time ever at the Capital Grille, I had something other than steak for an entree. I ordered the Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Shallot Relish. The fish was lighter and flakier than most swordfish, and it was excellent. When ordering this dish, the waiter asked if I wanted the relish on the side, and I’m glad I said no. The relish was really good, and having it served over the top of the fish, every bite had some of the flavor. The swordfish was served over some asparagus, fresh corn and roasted tomatoes. For lunch, it was the perfect sized portion, but at dinner time, you would probably want to order one of the Capital Grille's fabulous side dishes to accompany it.

Swordfish With Lemon Shallot Relish
    Jen, the vegetarian, ordered Chef's Matt recommendation of pasta with vegetables. He also told her if a vegetarian requests a particular vegetable and they don’t have it, he will send someone over to Whole Foods to get it. However, Jen said she would take whatever vegetables he had in house. I was a little disappointed in the offering just being a vegetable pasta dish, but Jen raved over it, and she has been served many vegetarian pasta dishes in her lifetime. The pasta and vegetables were perfectly cooked and served with an herb infused oil sauce. She said, "The herb infused olive oil was a great alternative to a heavier sauce that may have muddled the flavors of the individual vegetables."

Vegetarian Pasta
     We were both tempted by the dessert menu, especially after our waiter told us everything is made in-house. Jen was enticed by the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, and the portion was gigantic. I thought there was no way a skinny girl could eat such a big of a piece of cake that looked like it was made for sharing, but she devoured the whole slice. The cake was moist and not overly sweet. Its layers were separated by a decadent chocolate mousse, and the crushed toasted hazelnuts added a nice crunch. As if the cake wasn't enough, it was also accompanied by a creme anglaise. I tried the seasonal specialty, which was pumpkin cheesecake. I am very particular about my pumpkin cheesecake, and this one was good, but not the best I have ever had.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
     I have always been impressed by the customer service provided at the Capital Grille. They go out of their way to make sure every customer is satisfied. In my opinion, customer service is an important part of the restaurant experience. Are all guests made to feel welcome? If there’s a problem, how does the restaurant handle it? On this visit, the food matched up with the excellent customer service. Will I go back to the Capital Grille and order seafood again? Hmmmm. I would, but if I’m going to a steak house, I usually want steak. However, it’s nice to know you can bring your entire family - beef lovers, vegetarians and fish aficionados – and they will all have an excellent meal.
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