Scape American Bistro in the Central West End is a real gem, boasting a space that’s at once elegant and inviting, thanks to the abundance of windows looking out onto the picturesque Maryland Plaza fountain, and unique touches like the ‘bubble’ light fixtures that adorn the ceiling in the dining room. The cuisine is every bit as attractive as the decor, with a menu by chef Eric Kelly that’s a melding of classic and contemporary cuisine. We stopped in to re-connect with this perennial diner’s favorite.

We decided to indulge in a preprandial drink while we mulled over the menu. The specialty cocktail list at Scape included some twists on classics like the Negroni and the Manhattan, as well as several custom concoctions. We especially liked The Intern ($10), a slightly spicy, floral concoction that featured rye whiskey, Dubbonet and St. Germain.

We started our meal with one of Scape’s signature dishes, the Shrimp and Grits ($14). The cheesy cheddar grits were served in a pepper-butter sauce that was complex and not too heavy, despite the butter. The dish came with three sizable shrimp, but we upgraded and added one more to allow for even sharing.

Scape has a nice selection of steaks, and we took full advantage, ordering the 12 oz New York Strip Steak ($32—a 16 oz version also is available). It came to the table a nice medium rare, with some peppercorn sauce on the side. Since the steak selections were a la carte, we added the Braised Brussel Sprouts with Bacon Confit ($7) to round out our plate, which was a fine decision! The sprouts were tender and flavorful, and the confit added just enough salty, porcine goodness to the dish without being overwhelming. We went from turf to surf and decided to try the Seafood Paella ($28). This dish contained fresh mussels and a few more hefty shrimp, among other delicious seafood bits, served with a savory sauce over rice in a cast iron skillet. We found Scape’s version of this classic Spanish dish to be one of our favorites!

In addition to fine food, Scape is also known for its wine cellar, and we were impressed by the plethora of Old- and New World selections we found on the wine list. Because our paella was on the heavier side as far as seafood goes, we paired it with a glass of 2009 Block Nine Caiden’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($11). We chose a glass of 2007 Pagos de Eguren Tempranillo ($9) to stand up to the steak, which it did quite nicely.

We finished our Scape experience with the Chilled Chocolate Sabayan ($8), which featured a pyramid made of Venezuelan Maracaibo chocolate, with a small scoop of Dutch chocolate gelato and raspberries accompanying it. It was plated so beautifully it was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We paired it with a sample of Flad tawny port ($9).

The Central West End has no shortage of fine dining options, but Scape is definitely in the upper pantheon of those culinary destinations. By now, the gorgeous back bar area should be open for al fresco dining. We may just have to head back sooner than we thought!

Scape American Bistro, 48 Maryland Plaza, 361-7227, scapestl.com.

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