When Stab’s Steak and Seafood opened in Central about four years ago, it took locals a while to get over the idea of a fine-dining restaurant opening in the 'burbs before Baton Rouge. Once news spread of a Stab’s coming to Jefferson Highway, the anticipation was real.

Anticipate no more. Stab’s Prime Steak and Seafood has been up and running since October. So, what’s our take?

Whelmed, though not quite overwhelmed.

What we liked most on our recent visits to Stab’s was the food itself. If you’re going to pay north of $40 for steaks, they had better be excellent, and ours were, as were the appetizer, dessert, sides and — with one exception — entrees.

Our service also was top-notch. The wait staff was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable, and manager Kevin Kimball is a constant presence in the dining area, making patrons feel appreciated.

The visual ambience? Meh. Tan walls, off-white columns, blond brick floors and charcoal-colored carpets aren’t very warm. That was a bit of a surprise, since the original location impressed us with its cozy quality. It’s an area we hope Stab’s will tweak.

When the crabcake appetizer ($20) arrived at our table, we quickly glanced back at the menu to see if it was listed as singular or plural. Yes, it’s one crabcake — but different from the vast majority we’ve sampled. A better description is crab patty, one entirely without breading and consisting entirely of crab meat accented with ravigote and buerre blanc. The latter created a creamy consistency throughout, and the interplay of flavors was sublime. It is a great appetizer for two.

Speaking of which, on both trips, the staff highly recommended the wood-fired Stab’s Maison oysters topped with shrimp and crab au gratin coated in breadcrumbs. We’re not big oyster people, but they sound incredible, and it’s almost always a good idea to trust items the wait staff raves over. Maybe next time.

Our lunch visit included the steak tips ($18), cubes of filet tips served over french fries. Seasoned with a little salt, pepper and sage butter, the filet had a slightly crisp outer layer and was tender and flavorful. As for the fries, Stab’s knows the secret — make them fresh and in-house. The only seasoning that I could taste was kosher salt, and it was all that was needed.

The lunch shrimp and grits ($18) is attractively presented, with six medium shrimp surrounding a mound of yellow grits, with both covered in a brown gravy. Frankly, we’ve had better. Neither the gravy nor the grits had a lot of flavor, so we reached for the salt and pepper shakers. Not a disaster, but not an exclamation point, either.

We enjoyed Stab’s clever touch to something as standard and simple as the sensation salad ($9): The salad "bowl" was thinly sliced cucumbers. Another standard in these parts, of course, is a cup of seafood gumbo ($10). We’ve had all manner of seafood gumbo at restaurants grand and humble, and the quality hasn’t always corresponded to the status of the eatery. It does here. This is extremely good gumbo, maybe the best we’ve ever had. It has enough pepper to get your attention, but not overwhelm the shrimp, oysters and crab (or your taste buds for what comes later). It is full of seafood. What’s not to like? The three-cheese macaroni ($8) is also tangy, creamy and delicious.

Naturally, steaks are the focal point at Stab’s, and those we sampled were excellent. The 8-ounce filet mignon ($38) was served in a piping hot skillet and was tender, seasoned classically with salt, black pepper and butter, accenting but not stealing the spotlight from the richness of the beef. Likewise, the dry aged, 14-ounce New York strip steak ($52) was a satisfying experience. More than an inch thick in the center, the perfectly medium-rare steak we received had a robustly flavorful sear over a warm, red center.

When it was time for dessert, our waitress recommended the cheesecake ($10) topped with “moonshine” pralines ($5 extra). The pralines and sauce took what was an already fantastic cheesecake and made it decadent.


Stab’s Prime Steak and Seafood

7666 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday 

INFO: Call (225) 361-0797 or visit stabsprime.com.

PROS: The food itself; top-notch service; seafood gumbo

CONS: Lack of ambience; shrimp and grits

Follow George Morris on Twitter, @GWMorris.