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STEAK WARS — Koestler Prime strikes first

JACK WEATHERLY

An hour after the city of Ridgeland issued its last permit to the restaurant mid-afternoon last Thursday, Scott and Julie Koestler decided – what the heck – let’s open tonight.

And so they did.

Julie posted it on Facebook.

But it was not like there was  a complete  surprise to the opening of Koestler Prime in Renaissance at Colony Park.

“We had a great crowd. We had a full house,” Scott said, adding that he didn’t yet know the exact seating capacity as he conducted a tour of restaurant.

Another 50 to 65 seats will be added over the next couple of weeks, he said.

There had been a public legal battle over the name of the restaurant.

Mark and Mary Shapley contended in a March lawsuit in federal court that the Koestlers could not use the name “Shapley’s” because the 1998 purchase agreement of $1.69 million did not include it as an asset. The Koestlers took the opposing view.

An agreement was reached in April. Hence, Koestler Prime and MM Shapley’s. So the race was on.

Mark Shapley said Tuesday that the renamed restaurant will open probably late this month.

He said the building, which was purpose-built as Shapley’s at 868 Centre St. in Ridgeland a couple of blocks north of County Line Road, is undergoing a complete remodeling, including new equipment.

The menu essentially won’t change from what it had been, Shapley said.

Same at Koestler Prime, said Scott Koestler. The menu is the same and the new quarters are the same overall size as Shapley’s. It is in the space that had been leased to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which closed in May.

The Koestlers agreed in the settlement not to use the Shapley name, which, they contended, they built into a choice name for premium steaks as well as seafood over a 20-year period.

Being a newbie to these two restaurants leaves one unable to compare.

Chances are the Koestler brand hasn’t led to any change in a successful formula.

Add the fact that all but one of the 56 full- and part-time employees from Shapley’s moved over with the Koestlers and chances are very good.

One of the kitchen workers says to Scott: “What’s your name?”

“Scott.”

“Mine’s Henry.”

Joke? Yes, Scott says, chuckling. “He always does that.”

The layout of the kitchen is arranged as it had been at the old location, except that the area is twice as big.

“It’s a lot better working environment,” Scott said.

We got a table at the comfortable bankette along the curved wall behind the front desk.

That was a good place to watch the place fill up after we got there a little before 6.

By 7 o’clock, it seemed all tables were taken, including semi-private booths with white tablecloth tables and original paintings of landscapes and skyscapes, mostly by Mississippi artists.

The bar opens at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Dinner starts at 5 o’clock; seating ends weekdays at 9:30 and 10 on weekends.

The staff seemed to be often greeting regulars to the new place.

I broke the ice at our table with a 4 Roses Yellow Label on the rocks, an old Kentucky bourbon that has made a comeback in recent years.

For appetizers, I had smoked salmon carpaccio. My wife had three husk-wrapped tamales, nice and spicy.

I chose – what else – a steak – a bone-in ribeye, along with a side of new potatoes with fresh herbs.

The charred, and cross-hatched, meat and bone did their jobs, capturing the juices of the prime beef and the sweetness of the marrow, respectively.

The 26-to-28-ounce piece was large enough for even a big guy to save some for later, finished off at home two days later with even more flavor.

The meat was almost fork-cut tender and the tiny pockets of fat were flavor enhancing, as was the bone and its sweet marrow.

My wife picked the eight fried jumbo shrimp, which were very much to her liking, shrimp fan that she is. Her side, cream spinach au gratin, was enough for two.

We chose simple from the extensive wine list, chardonnay at $6, and a generous pour at that.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.

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