Dining With Denise Neil

Greystone’s luxury provided by private dining rooms, upscale menu

Greystone has four private dining rooms, which allow for meetings or small parties.
Greystone has four private dining rooms, which allow for meetings or small parties. The Wichita Eagle

East Wichita has another special-occasion restaurant, characterized by its dim lighting, high-priced entrees and upscale interior.

Greystone, a project of local restaurateur John Arnold and some partners, opened in August in the former Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que space at Cambridge Market, 21st and Webb Road.

For those with average means, Greystone is a place for a special night out, an anniversary or birthday splurge. Its most inexpensive entrees are $20, and the others can run up to $54 for a prime ribeye steak. Salads and sides are extra. In those ways, Greystone reminds me of Chester’s Chophouse, Wichita’s other upscale east-side restaurant, where diners who decide to forgo the extra $8 to $10 for a salad or side are presented with a giant plate occupied by a lonely $40 steak.

But Greystone has something a little different that sets it apart from Chester’s or, really, any other Wichita restaurant: four private dining rooms. The smallest seats eight, and the largest can hold 20. Each has doors that close it off from the rest of the restaurant, wooden chair rails, chandeliers, big-screen television sets and a tasteful, themed decor.

On a recent weekend, I attended a birthday party for a friend at Greystone, and his wife reserved the Map Room, decorated with a giant, framed map of North America. There were eight of us, and we had a party, for sure. The private quarters let us be as loud as we wanted, and three and a half hours flew by. By the end of the evening, we were ready to book a vacation for nine and invite our waiter, Dalton, to join us.

Greystone shows no signs of the chain barbecue restaurant that previously occupied its building. Arnold and company gutted the building and filled it with high-end materials, including the stacked stones that accent many of the interior walls.

Customers walk through the front doors and are greeted by dark leather chairs, deep carpet and three or four smiling hostesses stationed at the entrance. They can stay in the plush waiting area or go wait in the cozy bar.

If they’re not waiting for a private dining room, diners will be seated in the main dining room, sectioned off by short walls in the center of the restaurant. It’s an attractive collection of two- and four-top tables, each covered in white linen and arranged underneath a coffered ceiling. (With enough notice, the main room, which seats about 50, also can be closed off for a private event.) Tucked in the spaces between the private dining rooms and main dining room are roomy, semi-private half-circle booths.

The food offerings at Greystone aren’t exactly imaginative – the menu is filled with steak, chicken, pork and seafood dishes, and its sides are potatoes and vegetables in a variety of decadent preparations. But the food is good, and the presentation is gorgeous. If you’re prepared for the prices, you won’t be disappointed.

One of our favorite dishes was the one we had to wait for the longest. We ordered the 14-ounce prime ribeye, one of the few dishes that comes with a side – a loaded baked potato. My companion requested it be cooked to medium, but the steak arrived at the table well-done, which is the same as inedible in my book. I rarely send food back, but an improperly cooked steak is the exception. Dalton apologetically took it away, and about 15 minutes later, the manager delivered a new piece of beef that was almost medium rare (the way I prefer it). It was tender, juicy and beautifully charred, with a nice, salty seasoning. The steak was worth every dollar.

My chicken Marsala was made of two pounded pieces of chicken breast buried under a pile of sauteed button mushrooms and red onion. The chicken was some of the most fork-tender and juicy I’ve ever eaten, and though I didn’t taste much Marsala in it, the brown sauce that coated the dish was silky and rich.

Another friend splurged and ordered the 6-ounce bone-in filet, a preparation of meat not common in Wichita restaurants. She likes her meat rare, and that’s how she got it. Though the high-quality beef melted like butter in our mouths, the cut’s stark appearance was pretty startling. The meat was served alone on the plate, with the bone still attached; eating it was a prehistoric, Flinestones-esque experience. One member in our party shuddered at the carnivorous display.

The ahi tuna steak, coated in black-and-white sesame seeds and served bright-pink rare, also was a tender treat, especially when dipped in the soy-based sauce served on the side, and the shaved, pickled ginger and dollop of wasabi served on top of the tuna made a gorgeous and flavorful garnish.

The diner at our table who couldn’t tolerate the hunk of raw beef next to her ordered the lobster cargot from the appetizer list as her entree, but it might have been even less appealing to her. The dish cost $29 and came in an escargot-style serving dish, each compartment filled with a hunk of lobster. But the shellfish was buried in a pile of cheese so greasy, the fat was seeping to the surface. The dish looked unappetizing and felt heavy in the mouth. She pushed it away without eating more than a few bites and couldn’t persuade anyone else at the table to try it.

But almost everything else we tried, we liked, including the bacon-wrapped scallops, which were basic but cooked correctly and interestingly served atop a bed of cumin-spiced grits with corn and black beans; and a decadent dessert made up of two hockey puck-sized discs of vanilla ice cream coated in a crumbled Butterfinger candy bar.

We also sampled several of the sides, which include chive-whipped potatoes, sauteed spinach and broccoli with Bearnaise sauce. Our favorite was the fresh corn, shaved from the cob so that many of the kernels were still clinging together and drowned in so much butter and cream, all the health benefits of the corn were instantly canceled out. It was vegetable as dessert.

We couldn’t decide on an appetizer, so Dalton suggested a $50 appetizer sampler, which comes with a generous serving of calamari, some shrimp cocktail, two smallish crab cakes and trout dip with grilled bread. The birthday boy preferred spinach dip, so the kitchen subbed it in for the trout dip. The sampler is designed for six, but it fed our party of eight reasonably well, though we had to fight over the tiny crab cakes. Their lack of size was made up for by the shrimp, which were easily 4 inches long, and there were four of them. The bulk of the plate was made up of small ringlets of calamari, tender, lightly fried and sprinkled with diced peppers that added a fresh crunch.

Needless to say, Dalton was a delight, and waiters at Greystone are serious professionals. I found his business card tucked inside my carryout box the next day.

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Greystone Steak & Seafood

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Where: 9719 E. 21st St. North; 316-295-2636

Type of food: Steak and seafood

Hours: 5-10 p.m. daily

Price range: Steaks are $24 to $54; entrees are $20 to $34; appetizers are $9 to $29; salads are $7 to $21; sides are $6 to $13

Reservations: Accepted

Alcohol: Full bar

Website: www.greystonewichita.com

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