Written by Hulda Lawrence
The Capital Grille is located in the Trylon Towers of The Chrysler Center at 155 East 42nd Street, 212 953-2000. Opened in 2004, it has been attracting diners into its big restaurant in increasing numbers. With many locations, besides NYC, the organization knows how to run a good operation providing large portions to hungry diners in a busy exciting place.
As part of the décor there are huge portraits of nine outstanding New York citizens: Billie Holliday, James Cagney, Senator Jacob K. Javits, Eleanor Roosevelt, A. Philip Randolph, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Duke Ellington and J. P. Morgan.
Everything is big about the Grille. The printed menu not only is full of enticing foods, but measures 18 inches in length and is 12 inches in width. On a recent day at lunch we were given this mammoth menu by Jonia, our charming server, and as we perused it we looked around us at the full length windows bringing light in from 42nd Street.
We began by ordering Lobster and Crab Cakes as our appetizer. Accompanied by a relish of yellow and white corn it was fine at $16. Other appetizers include Smoked Norwegian Salmon; Oysters on the Half Shell; Shrimp Cocktail; and Caviar and Calamari, with prices from $13 to $16. Caviar is at market price. There are soups and salads with salad entrees such as Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken; Blackened Shrimp or Tenderloin; Maine Lobster Salad; Grilled Tuna Steak Salad; and Grilled Salmon over mixed greens. Theses salads are $13. to $19.
The menu also includes a tremendous listing of wines from all over the world, over 900 selections, including a number of half bottles. Wines by the glass are on a separate menu and our choices were Sonoma Cutrer, Russian River Chardonnay 2003 at $13, and T. Supéry, Napa Valley, Merlot 2000 at $8. With such a vast listing of wines, the Grille provides individual lockers for lease annually by their regular diners.
Our entrees were Filet Mignon and French Seared Salmon with a two-mustard sauce. With these choices we enjoyed fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Substantial dishes are presented at both lunch and dinner. In addition to Sirloin there is Sliced Filet, Double Cut Lamb Chops, Peppered Filet Hash, Ribeye Steak Sandwich, Sauteed Provimi Calves Liver, Roasted Half Chicken, Fresh Grilled Sword Fish, Sesame Seared Tuna with Gingered Rice, Shrimp Scampi with Roasted Tomatoes over Linguini, Lobster and Crab Burger, Parmesan Sourdough Club, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, and a signature Cheeseburger. At lunch these entrees are $11 to $34 for Dry Aged Sirloin. At dinner the same entrees are offered along with a Veal Chop and the chef's selections, such as Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Carmelized Shallot Butter and Porcini Rubbed Delmonico with 8-year Aged Balsamic. These are $38 each.
Michael Trenk, the managing partner, was most cooperative in answering our questions about the food and its preparation.
The dessert menu also is large. Our choices were Key Lime Pie done with pistachios and Chocolate Hazel Nut Cake. When our server reported that the day's special ice cream was Chocolate Peanut Butter, she brought me a taste and it was great. The desserts were superior and other choices include Coconut Cream Pie, Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake, Creme Brulee, Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberries, and White Chocolate Mousse. Dessert prices are $4.95 for sorbet or ice cream to $8.95 for the Hazelnut Cake.
Architect Philip Johnson designed the Chrysler Center Trylons as three glass pyramids as tall as a seven-story building. They are meant to evoke the shape of the top of the Chrysler Building next door which is celebrating its 75th birthday this year. There are private rooms for smaller groups for up to 28 guests with larger facilities for up to 100 guests.
Hours: Open seven days a week. Dinner Sunday and Monday 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 11 p.m. Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Over at 19 West 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 212 281-0144, is a bright, bustling restaurant owned, operated and created by top Greek food and wine experts. Although its name, Kellari Taverna, connotes "cellar" in Greek, it is far from that kind of atmosphere. It is more like a happy, breezy locale for enjoying the best in Greek food and fun.
The other day when we lunched there, Nicholas Lyras introduced us to Hellenic cuisine. Our server, Jay, was from Ithaca - New York State, not Greece - but he was familiar with all the dishes on the menu and was an able advisor.
From the extensive listing of Mezedes (Savory Starters) we thoroughly enjoyed Kellari Chips of eggplant and zucchini served with kasseri cheese. They were wonderful. We also nibbled Fava (yellow peas with capers, smoked tomato and herbs) and Melitzana (smoked eggplant with black sesame). The chips are $16.95 and the other dishes are $8.95 each. Other starters include Grilled Sardines stuffed with olives, walnuts and raisins; Octopus; Saganaki Haloumi stuffed with fresh herbs, lemon, flamed with tsipouro; Keftedes, spiced ground lamb with trahana (wheat grain); and Spanakopita, spinach, leek and fennel in phyllo. These beginnings range from $8.95 to $14.95 for octopus.
With all the tastes of Mezedes we enjoyed, we decided to skip having two entrees and opted to share Garides, grilled shrimp with tomato, lemon confit, with olives and saffron spiced potatoes. It was very good and we had Techni Al pias Sauvignon Blanc, Drama, Greece for my companion and Vatiatas, Cabernet/Agiorgitiko, Lahi, Peloionnese, Greece for me. Both wines were fine. Wines by the glass, mostly from Greece, are $8 to $14.
Many diners have a selection of small plates of Loukaniko, lamb sausage with red wine sauce and spices at $11.95; or Pan Fried Smelts at $12.95. However, Psaria, whole fish grilled on charcoal, is available depending upon market availability. Prices are by the pound from $23.95 for lobster to $34.95 for Dover sole. Other fish are dorado, red snapper, lou de mer, sea bass and mullet. Diners are warned that it takes twenty to thirty minutes for preparation.
Other entrees include Stuffed Roast Chicken Breast; Slow-Baked Lamb Shank; Grilled Lamb Tenderloin; Loin Lamb Chops; Filet Mignon; Grilled Veal Chop and Grilled Atlantic Salmon. All entrees have appropriate accompaniments.
There is a prix fixe luncheon with a choice of soup of the day, Prasini, greens with mint, dill and lemony dressing; Kalamari grilled with herbs or Spanakopita. The main course is a choice of Atlantic Salmon; Marinated Chicken Breast; Makaronia, penne with roasted veggie; or fish filet. Dessert if Baklavas or Flan. All this is $25.95. The pre-theatre dinner is $29.95 and has some additional choices and is served Monday through Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. with dessert and beverage.
For our Epidorpia (dessert) we shared Baklava Loukoumi, honey and fruit jelly in phyllo, baked rice pudding and Greek-coffee sauce. It was divine. Masticha, mastic mousse, fruits stewed in Samos wine and honey, was another gem. All desserts were delicious with prices from $7.95 to $9.95 for Halva and Chocolate soufflé.
This large and very inviting restaurant welcomes those who want an authentic Greek experience for either lunch or dinner. Sunday brunch is served. There also is a private back room for small parties.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily for lunch and dinner. Brunch is served on Sunday. Pre-theatre dinner is served 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.