Cozy up to Fireside Grille

Marriott restaurant features fine dining and expanded wine list in elegant setting

Written by Joe Stumpe

Tucked behind the Greatroom Bar in the eastside Wichita Marriott is a cozy 50-seat restaurant that just might become your favorite hideaway.

The restaurant, called Fireside Grille, was the fin- ishing touch on the hotel's $5.5 million renovation  and a great addition to the city's dining scene. Elegant tables beckon in the softly lit room. An electric fireplace plays along one wall. A walk-in wine cellar offers a hand-picked selection of wines. Then there's the menu, which puts the spotlight on chops, seafood, Creekstone Farm steaks and more.

Phil Ruffin, the entrepreneur who owns the Marriott, wanted a restaurant that would appeal to both travelers and Wichita-area residents who appreciate fine dining. Ruffin, says manager Alicia Franklin, left most food decisions to Chef Peter Moretti and the hotel's other food professionals.

But he is responsible for "Phil's Chateaubriand for Two," a center cut beef tenderloin that would be right at home in one of his Las Vegas properties. Designed to be shared, the beef is served with bernaise and mushroom demi sauces, roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables that follow the season. Ruffin also had a couple of suggestions for the extensive wine list, which has selections ranging from $30 up to $425 per bottle. "This is a complete step up," Franklin said. "We've never had this volume of wine before."

It would take multiple visits to sample all the tempting dishes on Fireside's menu. A good place to start is the lump crab cakes served with roasted red pepper aioli, or the burrata, a creamy mozzarella-like cheese accompanied by pesto, roasted red pepper and crostini. Among the soups and salads, the seafood bisque created with fresh crab, lobster and shrimp has become a favorite, although the French onion soup with Gruyere and Swiss cheese is something we'd certainly come back to when temperatures drop. Moving to entrees, the seared sea bass served with shrimp and lobster sauce is a dish Moretti has been treating diners to for years. Lamb chops served with a peppercorn mint glaze, a pork porterhouse cut dabbed with a bourbon apple demi sauce and the luscious free-range, herb-roasted chicken are other options.

Fireside's steaks all come from Creekstone, the Arkansas City-based purveyor of Black Angus beef that is barreling its way onto the menus of the best steakhouses across the country. Aged a minimum of 21 days, the filet mignon, ribeye, KC Strip, chopped steak and Chateaubriand can be ordered with a variety of "enhancements" such as gorgonzola butter, Maytag blue cheese and jumbo lump crab meat. Or for the perfect surf-and-turf combination, try the 5-ounce filet paired with lobster tail, shrimp scampi or grilled Alaskan king crab legs.

Be sure to save a little room for one of the inventive desserts, like the blood orange sorbet with toasted Italian meringue, ginger creme brulee or chocolate explosion with strawberry whiskey sauce.

Not surprisingly, Fireside Grille has been attracting locals desiring a top dining experience as well as business travelers.

"Local is big to us," Franklin said. "Whether it's for date night or the after-work crowd, it's a great atmosphere."

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