Starters: The lump crabmeat cocktail ($16.95) consists of a shell filled with a generous portion of enormous chunks of fresh crab accompanied by an excellent spicy cocktail sauce. We liked the clams casino ($12.95), which was really more about the bacon and other rich additives than the clams. There are fresh oysters (market value), escargots bourguignonne ($12.95) and tenderloin steak tartare ($16.95). We thought the Caesar salad ($7.95), with house-made traditional-style dressing (not creamy) was one of the best we'd ever eaten, and the chef was happy to load on lots of extra anchovies. All of the salad dressings are made on the premises, and the lemon-caper vinaigrette is a unique taste experience worth asking for.
Entree excellence: How many synonyms can you come up with for "juicy," "thick," and "tender?" At Fifth Avenue Grill, all the cliches apply for describing the high-quality meat. There is a porterhouse ($44.95), filet mignon ($36.95 and $32.95) and aged New York strips (priced to size). The rib eye ($42.95), 20 ounces of aged beef, was superb and accompanied by a bearnaise sauce, which perfectly complemented the steak. The roast prime rib ($24.95 and $29.95) was everything it should be, with the rich pink center we ordered and a delicious crusty exterior, and just the right amount of fat to provide flavor without being excessive. The house-made horseradish sauce was of requisite hotness. A choice of several types of potato or wild-rice mix was included with the main dish. The baked potato, deftly cooked, had a thick, crispy skin. A warm corn salad was fresh and savory, made with kernels shaved right off the cob.
Seafood: For a lighter meal, if there is such a thing at Fifth Avenue Grill, we recommend grilled swordfish ($26.95). While swordfish can often be dry, this was not. All the expected seafood entrees are on the menu, from lobster tails and live Maine lobster (market price) to shrimp scampi ($24.95) and fresh sole ($19.95).
Side Issues: There is a small a la carte side order menu, featuring items such as cheddar hash browns ($5.95) and onion sauteed mushrooms ($8.95). Each item is enough for two, but we caution against ordering them in addition to your entree unless you're intent on bringing home a doggy bag.
Sweet: One simple suggestion: Order the creme brulee ($8.95) and share. It's tricky to make, and here, it's expertly prepared. It had a cool, custardy interior topped by a perfectly caramelized hot crackly crust, and it wasn't too heavy.
Liquid assets: If there is one flaw in the Fifth Avenue Grill experience, it's the wine list —also one of the restaurant's strengths. Its length would give pause even to the most experienced oenophile, with variety and price range to suit any pocketbook and palate. Each wine is accompanied by a helpful numbered rating system, but with a list that includes some bottles in the several-thousand-dollar range, the absence of a sommelier was inexplicable. The server was not knowledgeable about the list, and an expert who could have recommended wines to complement certain foods would have been advantageous for both restaurant and diners.
Service: Friendly and attentive.
Insider tip: Starting in mid-October, the chef will prepare one seasonal special every night. At the same time, live piano music will begin from 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.