Newcastle golf club’s Grill is better than par

A golf course has always struck us as an unlikely venue for an elegant restaurant — but in the case of The Calcutta Grill, we have to make an exception.

Despite its name, The Calcutta Grill, which dominates the sprawling grounds of The Golf Club at Newcastle, is not an Indian restaurant. But on the first encounter, we were hard-pressed to say what it was.

It’s a massive country club of a place, located on a mountain byway called Six Penny Lane. A bagpiper in Prince Charlie tuxedo greeted us as we entered the restaurant for the first time. Just inside were a lobby and pub in British rural style. We struggled to put this information together with the restaurant’s name and figure out what the theme was. British colonial, perhaps? That would explain the “Calcutta” and the bagpipes. …

Then it dawned on us. Bagpipes Scotland … Golf, of course! That still

didn’t explain the “Calcutta” part, but we were content to let that stay a mystery. We decided that the course is intended to be a golf course dining room in the style of elegant, manly British private clubs. Lots of solid wood furniture and rich, clubby decor. Prompt, responsive, slightly deferential service. And a menu that extends beyond the Raj to the farthest corners of the Empire.

As an appetizer, we started with artichoke and spinach dip, served with Romano and crostini ($9.95) — an enjoyable but unexceptional starter. We also found the house Caesar (a starter salad is included in the price of dinner) to be just so-so, with neither an anchovy nor a hint of anchovy paste in evidence. The Caesar was more impressive as an entree ($9.95) topped with chicken and prawns (but still no anchovies).

Given our conclusions about Calcutta Grill’s theme and atmosphere, the smoked prime rib (10 ounces at $18.95) seemed to us a properly British sort of thing to order, and we found it to be delightful. The “smoked” part was what made the difference, setting this dish apart from most prime ribs we’ve tried. This one had a truly smoky flavor that made it unique and worth going back for. It was served with a Gorgonzola mash that was surprisingly shy on Gorgonzola. We know that Gorgonzola can be a little pushy to American tastes, and for that reason, many chefs are shy of using too much of it. But in this case, more’s the pity, because an extra boost of Gorgonzola would have been an excellent complement to the smoky prime rib, making a great dish even greater.

Another appetizer-as-entree, the butternut squash ravioli with truffle butter ($10.95) was an utter delight, by turns both subtle and profound, creamy, her tangy, and most satisfying as a dinner despite its status as a starter pumped up to meal size.

The special of the night was Atlantic salmon ($20.95)–another appropriate choice for a golf course restaurant since this is the fish Scots are referring to when they speak of salmon. Atlantic salmon is a species more closely related to trout than to our Pacific salmon, a lighter-flavored pink-meated fish with the same tender texture we in the Pacific Northwest associated with the term “salmon.” Ours came accompanied with varied greens, herb vinegar, and basmati rice (aha! a touch of Calcutta after all!).

Our favorite from among the entrees we sampled was the pancetta monkfish ($23.95), another dish in which smoking paid off. The monkfish — a white-meated, full-bodied deep-sea fish — was smoked and wrapped in prosciutto. The smokiness we so enjoyed in the prime rib was even better suited to the monkfish. The combined effect of the prosciutto and, the smoke brought out the best in the delicate, flavorful fish.

Though a little out of the way (especially for non-Eastsiders), the Calcutta Grill is worth the trip — a perfect place for a special occasion or for entertaining those important out-of-town investors. The service is attentive and cordial, but with a degree of aloofness and deference appropriate to the Calcutta Grill’s British style. The spectacular view of the rolling Newcastle hills, Lake Washington, and Seattle beyond is stunning at any time, but especially wonderful at sunset — so consult the charts and time your Calcutta Grill dinner reservations carefully.

SUMMING UP: The Calcutta Grill, 15500 Six Penny Lane, Newcastle, 425-793- 4646, www.newcastlegolf.com/calcutta grill.htm. Continental and Northwest specialties in an elegant country club on the Newcastle golf course. Call first for driving directions, or see Web site for map. Hours: Lunch: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner. Daily 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday Brunch: 8 to 10 a.m. Major credit cards accepted. Lot parking in front. Reservations strongly recommended.

One of our anonymous reviewers regularly visits a Puget Sound-area restaurant unannounced. The Business Journal pays for all meals. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the reviewer. Reactions will be published in the Letters column.

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