This upscale steakhouse at Polaris hits enough high notes to earn four stars.

Eddie Merlot's is an upscale steakhouse on Polaris Parkway, complete with splashy décor and high prices. I admit, I did not want to like it since it seemed pretentious and too costly. But I did like it. Enough to give it four stars. The food was really good.

Appetizers were outstanding in appearance, freshness and taste. Eddie Merlot's offers the showiest shrimp cocktail in town: dry ice produces a column of "smoke" around the cup holding four large and nicely cooked shrimp. The cocktail sauce was traditional-less horseradishy than many of its counterparts. Sesame calamari was excellent, as well as the oyster shooters: shot glasses holding a fresh-shucked oyster with cocktail sauce and horseradish vodka. The rich onion soup was outstanding. The artichoke dip, served with hot buttered garlic toast, was highly satisfactory. The serving of beef carpaccio was pleasingly large and garnished with the usual capers and onion as well as a nice crisp polenta cake. The crab cake also was fine, with a pleasing corn relish and onion crisps.

My favorite appetizer, available for two or more, was the Atlantic platter. It was a huge plate of shaved ice holding oysters, that good shrimp cocktail, mussels in their shells, a mild seared scallop seviche and a tasty Japanese-style seaweed salad. I may order the whole thing just for myself next time. For another $5 or $16, you can get a platter with Alaskan king crab legs or even lobster.

Eddie Merlot's Favorite salad provided good greens with a nice mix of lots of bits and pieces: tomato, cucumber, red onion, black olive, bacon and croutons. The tomato and onion salad was great.

The place somehow found ripe, tasty tomatoes in late November and served them in thick slices with a good red onion topped with crumbled blue cheese.

As for the steaks, I was thrilled. Eddie Merlot's buys prime beef, ages it long enough, cuts it by hand, flash-sears it and then cooks it just the way you ordered it. I gave the kitchen multiple chances to screw up, and it never did. Even the filet mignon-usually relatively tasteless-was extremely tender and quite good (I had it peppercorn style). I also sampled the Trio of Medallions to check out the toppings: peppercorn, Oscar and blue cheese. The medallions were excellent, but I recommend against any of the supposed enhancements. Beef this good deserves to be enjoyed for its own self. The New York strip was wonderful, as well as the 38-ounce bone-in rib-eye (for two, unless you're really a glutton). The latter was a magnificent hunk of meat.

Side dishes were certainly worth ordering-and the portions generous enough to share. Eddie's Potatoes were scalloped, with lots of cream, cheese and jalapeño peppers. Parmesan truffle fries were skin-on, fried just right and tasty. Macaroni and cheese was also outstanding, with the tender but not-overcooked spirals in lots of cheeses and cream and a crumb topping. (For $10 more, they'll add lobster.) My favorite was a simple but creative pairing: cipollini onions and charred jalapeño peppers. Utterly delicious.

Of course, Eddie Merlot's offered lots of wine choices, including a nice range of by-the-glass options. I liked everything I tried.

Desserts also were nice, from a pretty crème brûlée to a superb assortment of perfectly fresh berries in a wonderful crème Anglaise.

Eddie Merlot's

1570 Polaris Pkwy.

433-7307

eddiemerlots.com

Atmosphere: Almost posh, often busy.

Recommended dishes: Artichoke dip, Smokin' shrimp cocktail, fresh oyster shooters, Atlantic platter, tomato and onion salad, just about any steak (but skip the enhancements), fresh seasonal berries.

Price range: Appetizers $8.95-$39.95; soups and salads $5.50-$9.50; entrees $21.95-$84.95; sides $5.95-$18.95; desserts $4.95-$14.95.

Hours: Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday till 11 pm, Sunday till 9 pm.

Service: Attentive and intelligent.

Reservations: Recommended.

Rating: * * * *

Reprinted from the January issue of Columbus Monthly.