Seagars

American, Steakhouse
$$$$ ($25-$34)
'

Editorial Review

Picture it: You're lying in your hospital bed when in comes Nurse, busy as a bee, to tuck you in. You exchange a few pleasantries when suddenly she heads toward your pile of dirty laundry, folds it and hangs it neatly over the arm of a chair. How do you feel?

In some ways, the experience of having dinner at the new Seagars in Old Town bears a resemblance. No sooner are you up out of your seat to the bathroom, and a member of the wait staff is similarly tending to your soiled napkin. It's a little disquieting. And the napkin tricks don't end there: If, at meal's end, you've some spots of mousse on your tablecloth, a waiter may well arrive with his hanky to "patch" it, smoothing it onto the table as a nurse might smooth a blanket.

Residents of Old Town have long awaited the opening of this cigar-steak-and-seafood place in the boxy new Hilton at the King Street Metro. The clientele, when we went, was a mix of locals (the 60-year-old man with a firm grip on his martini-rocks) and out-of-towners in to do business. (Overheard: "You're the man, Jim. You will be president. I'll be there for you every step of the way.")

The space is pretty standard for a restaurant you'd find in a hotel. A sexy bar serves up whopper drinks to fat expense accounts. The establishment boasts a stock of almost 150 varieties of cigars and even the food manager isn't afraid to spark one up.

Of course, these are still early days in the restaurant's existence. But the staff seems so intent on getting it right that service becomes fussy rather than swift. A bottle of mineral water we ordered was placed in a silver bucket quite out of reach so that, like Tantalus, we gazed but could not touch.

After some hoopla with the plates and cutlery, the food arrived. A Seagars' chopped salad was cool and fresh, not overdressed and tossed with small spears of asparagus, palm hearts and blue cheese. But the bread rolls were tough. The menu really doesn't deviate from its promise of meats and fish. No seafood pastas here, just filets and cuts and tails. Chilean sea bass, Parmesan crusted, came on lacy hash brown potatoes with a zesty tomato vinaigrette and mixed greens. But the greens had forgotten their dressing and we did wonder whether the $24.50 was a tad bold for such a dainty portion of fish.

In a house of steak, a filet mignon ($27.95) ought to be king. Here, though, it was made wet with a brown sauce and appeared to have been pan cooked. What it lacked in flavor, it made up for in girth and depth. Elsewhere on the menu: a 28-ounce porterhouse ($35.95), a Caribbean jerked tuna steak with mango and papaya salsa ($23.50), a 20-ounze garlic-and-herb-roasted chicken ($17.95). This restaurant is fond of the flamboyance of tableside prep and isn't shy to roll out the trolley. A Caesar ($16), the steak Diane ($34.50) and the bananas Foster are all prepared beneath your nose.

One last tip: Purses beware -- Whole lobster (three pounds and larger only) was selling for $25 per pound. And an ounce of Russian beluga appetizer is $65 the ounce. Has the world, we wonder, gone mad?
-- Alexa Beattie