Dining With Denise Neil

Review: Fireside Grille another Wichita gem hidden in a hotel

The ribeye at Fireside Grille is a Creekstone Farms cut cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
The ribeye at Fireside Grille is a Creekstone Farms cut cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The Wichita Eagle

If you ever want to pretend like you’re so rich that one of the most beautiful restaurants in Wichita can be cleared out for your private use, I have a place for you.

That’s what I pretended both times I visited Fireside Grille, which, like many of Wichita’s most underutilized fine-dining restaurants, is hidden inside a hotel. Both times I visited – once on a Thursday night, once on a Saturday – there were long periods where my party was the only party in the restaurant. It was all ours, and the staff had no one to cater to but us.

Although it was luxurious, it’s just not right. A restaurant like this shouldn’t be enjoyed only by out-of-towners.

Fireside Grille opened in January 2016 inside the Wichita Marriott at 9100 Corporate Hills Drive. It replaced the hotel’s former restaurant, Black Angus Grille, and was part of Ruffin Properties’ $5 million renovation of the hotel’s ground floor.

The dinner-only Fireside Grille is a plush, dimly lit upgrade, decorated with fine finishes, designer booths and a large double-sided fireplace that allows a view of the more casual but just as lush hotel bar on the other side.

More important, the food and service are top-rate – and I’m pretty sure they would still be if the restaurant had more customers.

▪ On the menu: The current menu, which managers say they are in the process of updating, offers an accessible list of upscale dishes: seared sea bass, lobster tail, duck breast, lamb chops, Creekstone Farm steaks and more. There’s even a Chateaubriand for two, served with sides and presented table-side for $120. Appetizer options include choices like mussels and shrimp cocktail, and the soup offerings are seafood bisque and French onion.

▪ Don’t-miss dishes: We sampled many memorable dishes, not the least of which was the restaurant’s Creekstone Farms ribeye, which the menu promises was aged for a minimum of 22 days. If that’s what it takes to achieve this flavor, then age away. The steak, which we ordered on both visits, came out a perfect medium-rare each time, and it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and buttery and worth the $38 price tag. Fireside Grille, fortunately, offers a side dish with its entrees at no extra charge, which many finer restaurants don’t. The loaded baked potato seemed like the right choice, and it was.

Another excellent choice was the diver sea scallops – five perfectly cooked scallops that were topped with a lemony, saffron-flavored beurre blanc (as if the scallops weren’t naturally buttery enough). I forced myself to savor each bite, because it would have been easy to pop each scallop quickly in my mouth and let it melt. As a side, I chose the fingerling potatoes, cooked with onions in truffle butter. The first time I ordered them, the pungent truffle flavor was pronounced and perfect. The second time, though, it was absent. The scallops were $38.

Not all entrees, though, are in the $40 range. We had several that were more affordable and just as good, including a nice piece of grilled salmon flavored with white truffle oil. Though I’m not a huge fan of grilled salmon, this one was nicely seasoned and moist, and we ordered it with a side of crisp steamed broccoli.

Another less expensive dish was the free-range herb roasted chicken, which was spatchcocked before it was roasted and was topped with a buttery lemon sauce that was seasoned with rosemary, the perfect herb for chicken. The meat was still juicy and tender, and it was complimented by the char flavor from the grill. It was $23.

The only disappointment was the seared sea bass, which at $40 was the most pricy entree we ordered. The fish was fall-apart tender, as sea bass should be, but the sauce served on the side – billed as a shrimp and lobster sauce – was an unappealing orange color and tasted like nothing in particular. The dish was overall bland, and I found myself gazing with envy at my husband’s steak.

Our appetizers were also a highlight, especially the burrata, which featured a ball of the smooth and spreadable Italian cheese served over pesto with grilled crostini that were smoky and charred from the grill. It was the type of appetizer where everyone wants to claim the last bite but leaves it, assuming everyone else wants it just as badly.

The same was true of the stuffed mushrooms, a serving of six that were swimming in a rich sauce made of Parmesan, cheddar, provolone and pepperjack. It was broiled before it was served, providing a crunchy cheese topping. I shamelessly grabbed the last one of those.

Desserts were good, too. The tiramisu was elevated by the sugary, crunchy coffee cream sauce it was served on top of, and the unfortunately named chocolate explosion was an artfully composed round of cake served on top of a strawberry whiskey sauce, then decorated with sculpted whipped cream and a carved strawberry.

▪ Ambience: Gorgeous. The small dining room is decorated all in gray, black and light brown tones, and the tables are all set with placemats, stemware and glowing candles. I’ve been trying to decide whether the vibe would be more vibrant if more diners were there, but I really enjoyed my private dining experiences.

▪ Price range: Entrees start at $23 for the chicken and go up to $40 for the sea bass. Appetizers range from $8 to $14. Desserts are $7 to $9.

▪ Service: Excellent. Of course, we had our well-trained, professional servers to ourselves on both of our visits.

If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Fireside Grille

1/2 out of four

Where: Inside the Wichita Marriott, 9100 Corporate Hills Drive; 316-651-0333, ext. 6199

Type of food: American, fine dining

Alcohol: Full bar

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays

Website: https://www.facebook.com/FiresideGrilleWichitaMarriott