The area’s second location for The Capital Grille, the high-end steakhouse owned by the Darden folks, has opened at the tony Mall at Millenia and it’s different from the one at Pointe Orlando. Not as different as it was originally intended to be, according to my sources, including an executive with the company, but different nonetheless.
When it was originally announced, in August of 2012, that TCG would take over the space that was suddenly vacated by McCormick & Schmick’s at the beginning of that year, the word was that this would be a boutique-ier Capital Grille — a Capital Grille Bistro, if you will — that would mesh more with the Millenia mien with a menu suited more for shoppers than conventioneers.
But the menu at Millenia is identical to the one that has been so popular at the Pointe. It’s the atmosphere that is different. It’s still sufficiently upscale and appointed with such fineries as crisp white tablecloths and napkins. But whereas the International Drive restaurant has the decidedly masculine feel of a boardroom or exclusive country club the Millenia location is brighter, more modern and less, well, stuffy. Old money versus nouveau riche.
Instead of black leather seat backs and cushions, woven webbing is used for the seat backs here. Instead of an inner sanctum bar away from natural light, the lounge at Millenia is bright and airy, thanks to the wall of windows at the front of the space.
Bright is a word that describes the restaurant overall. The decor is certain to appeal to women, surely the majority of the shoppers in the mall, more than the dark wood paneling at the other place. Indeed, there were several tables of women when I stopped in for lunch recently.
And my lunch was very good. I elected to order from the table d’hote offered at lunch that lets the diner choose a soup or salad, a main dish and a side for just $18, a considerable saving over the a la carte offerings.
I chose a cup of clam chowder to start. The creamy New England style broth was spot on, and there were plenty of chewy clams within. But there was also a bit too much grittiness.
There are four choices for the main course, including mini tenderloin sandwiches (this place is much too fancy to call them sliders), lobster roll, seared scallops, or dry aged sirloin. The Capital Grille is primarily a steakhouse, so I went with the sirloin.
It was a just-right size steak, cooked to a gorgeous red medium-rare and sliced and fanned on the plate. It was accompanied by a salad of gigante beans and roasted red peppers. My side dish was a stack of green beans cooked to a toothsome al dente and topped with red and golden cherry tomatoes.
The lunch also included the bread basket of lavosh and seeded rolls the Grille is known for, served with a pat of butter sprinkled with sea salt.
Service is still a bit too forward for my comfort level, though it isn’t as unctuous, chain-wide, as it was before Darden bought the company. I think my server recognized that I wasn’t looking to form a longterm relationship with him and dialed it back a bit. I appreciated that.
Unlike nearby restaurants Brio and Cheesecake Factory, the Capital Grille does not have a direct entrance from the mall. That could be a plus or a minus. It allows a separation from the mall atmosphere, which even an upscale shopping center like this one can’t fully shake. But it also means less walk-by traffic. Would-be diners will have to make a conscious effort to walk out the front door and down to the Capital Grille. Once word gets out, I’m sure they will.
The Capital Grille at Mall at Millenia, 4200 Conroy Road, Orlando, is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to the website, although the posted menu does not include prices. The phone number is 407-351-2210.