To restate what I've said before. For me, steak is an event, and I'd rather eat
something else than a poor steak. I save my steak eating for something special,
and I expect something stellar as a result. With that in mind, on to Morton's
Morton's is near Union Square, and reasonable parking can be found nearish. The dining room itself is located downstairs, and it is a bit of a striking sight when you first see it. Bustling, but elegant would be the quickest way to say it. We arrived without reservations during MacWorld, so I wasn't surprised to need to wait. However, it wasn't more than 20 minutes.
Morton's is a chain (like Ruth's Chris) and is originally out of Chicago (unless
I'm forgetting something). It looks like it. I don't know exactly what that
means, and it isn't an insult. It just somehow looks like a midwestern high end
steakhouse. They don't advertise prime meat, which isn't a problem in and of
itself, as the "prime" ranking is a voluntary inspection.
Nice, but small. Decent bartenders, good selection of drinks (high end
scotch, single malts, etc). Cigar friendly, and they sell an assortment of them
there. My companion told me it was a good selection. I wouldn't know, I'm not
in on that trend. TV in the bar was the biggest minus for me. Another bit of an
annoyance is that they won't transfer your tab to the dining room when you leave.
This is probably the weirdest part of the experience. Morton's doesn't really have a menu (except a small printed card listing prices). Instead, your waiter wheels up this cart and explains each cut of meat while showing you each piece. The meat is raw, but wrapped up in this industrial strength plastic wrap, and the waiter holds up each one and points out various "features." I felt like I was in some stereo store or something :-)
At a steakhouse, there isn't really much complexity of dishes, so the fact that the card of prices handed to you afterwards only lists things by name isn't a big problem. More annoying is the fact that you have to wait for the waiter to do this, and look interested while they are rattling things off, and so you don't get to use the first part of your seating in looking over the menu. Also, the rest of the meal you keep hearing the same words echoing over and over as other tables get the same treatment. It is nice, if you don't know steak, to actually *learn* something about it before you eat it. But a little of this goes a *long* way.
Morton's carries a filet, strip, porterhouse, and double porterhouse (can be carved for two if you wish). They also have brochets, lamb, and chicken. Two fish dishes, as I recall. 3 lb Main Lobsters also available. Sides are a la carte, and they have a decent range of them. Minus points for not at least having something veggie (that I could tell) for when you show up in a big group.
Double minus points for needing to ask to see a wine list. Geez, what did they
think I was going to have with steak? Root beer?
FOOD THAT WE ORDERED
Porterhouse for me, filet for my partner. Bernaise came with the filet. One baked potato for the table, one order of asparagas. Started with a mixed wild mushroom ap.
Typically priced Hess Select (Napa Cab) for the wine. List is actually pretty decent, and the cellar area (which you see as you arrive) is rather nice looking. Wine steward is helpful and friendly, but not pushy. It appears that they have a holding area for personal cases -- kind of charming in an old-world sort of way.
Morton's offers a number of souflees and a molton chocolate cake, both of which
need to be ordered up front. This is understandable, but does commit to you a
rich dessert before you know if you'll be ready. We went for the molton cake
(split between us two) because my companion had never had one before. They also
offer other desserts, in case you don't want to decide before you've even
FOOD THAT ARRIVED
The mixed mushroom ap was not impressive. I can't say it was a "disappointment" because I wasn't expecting much. But really now, why do places insist upon calling it "wild mushroom" when more than 80% of it is criminis? I couldn't even see *one* chanterelle which was in the list of supposedly included mushrooms. This is sort of like "mixed nuts" where it's all basically peanuts. Also, plain sautee of mushrooms is great with a main course, but a bit too plain for a ap -- certainly when it just ends up tasting like store bought mushrooms.
Potato came divided in half, and each side was dressed for what we each wanted. Sour cream, butter, and bacon bits available. Decently executed, and of reasonable size, but nothing to be amazed at. I have been amazed in the past by a particularly well done plain baked potato -- so it can happen :-)
Asparagas were shaved and steamed. Tips were properly tender, but the ends were too woody. It isn't really asparagas season, so I think they did as well as could be expected with the available ingredients.
Steaks were properly cooked (rare for me, medium rare for partner). Porterhouse was cooked evenly (tricky to do with this cut) throughout. Filet was slightly on the dry side. They were flavorful, but not incredible. I thought that mine (even on the filet side) had more flavor than my partner's filet did. Since we were eating in January, this should have been some of the better steak Morton's had to offer (winter time around the holidays is "meat season" -- did you know that?) and I was disappointed. Like so much of the food that night, it wasn't offensive, it just wasn't outstanding.
Bernaise was properly executed, and had the level of taragon flavor I enjoy (I
had some at Birk's once that tasted like liquid black licorice, bleah!). It was
also served at the proper temperature and didn't feel or taste like it had been
sitting around for a billion years.
Service was mixed. The waiter was nice and friendly taking the order, but we had at least 5 different presenters and busboys and so on. I don't mind my waiter handing off service to someone who brings/removes the plates. But I'd rather not have more than one of those.
One reason this is annoying to me is that I don't like having the waiter pour the wine. How do they know how much I want to drink, or if my dining companion wants more than I do? Who's driving? And I *don't* enjoy an overfull glass. When the wine comes, I tell the waiter (after tasting) "thank you, just leave the bottle on the table and we'll take care of it". Usually this is enough. At Morton's I lost count of how many people I had to shoo away from the bottle, and even at that I missed one and got a glass full to the rim once.
Another reason this is bothersome is that the eating keeps getting interupted by
other folks checking on you, and then when you start winding down, your main
waiter hasn't been keeping track. In this case, that ment that we waited a good
long time before he realized that we were done. It was a busy night, but I think
this was just sloppy service.
Hard to beat a molton chocolate cake, and Morton's does it properly. They use valhrona chocolate in it, and it certainly tastes like it. Simple presentation, and well worth the trouble to have had to order it first. Personally, I would have put a *little* less chocolate pieces in the center and relied upon the cake batter itself to stay a bit more liquidy -- but that's really picking nits.
If their souflees are executed as well, this could be a high point for being a
steakhouse. Not too many places do souflees, and it is a nice touch even if you
do need to warn them in advance. If I return, I certainly will check one of them
Meal was $175 for two, with wine and a fairly restrained style of ordering.
This is within $5 of what I spent with the same person at Ruth's Chris, with a
similar amount of food, quantity-wise. You could tone that down a bit, but it
would be difficult to escape for less than $100 for two.
Steak: Ruth's Chris is better, Morton's similar to Harris (SF) Sides:
Ruth's Chris is better, so is Harris (SF) Wine list: best of the steakhouses I've
been to Dessert: best I've had at a steakhouse, nothing else even close. Service:
Harris (SF) still wins here, and so does RC. Atmosphere: Harris is still best if
you are trying for "fancy", but certainly fine here. Similiar in style to RC.
I probably will return once with my other meat&wine friends to get
another reading, but it doesn't look too promising. For the price, I think I can
do better at RCs, and I am there for the steak mostly. On the plus side, I
almost always have red wine with steak, and this is Ruth's Chris's biggest minus
in my book.
CURRENT STEAKHOUSE RANKING
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