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Restaurant Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin

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When I’m traveling, I usually try to frequent restaurants that can be found in only the areas I’m visiting, rather than chains. But on my summer sojourn to the Big Apple, someone suggested that I dine at Morton’s, The Steakhouse. I had been to one of their branches in Beverly Hills several years ago, and was confused because here it’s billed as Arnie Morton’s of Chicago. Turns out, it IS the same chain, but you can get the quintessential New York feeling in only NY.

So, when my friend, Carol Rampino, and I needed a treat one night, this is exactly where we headed. (To work up an appetite, I walked the entirety of Fifth Avenue from the Plaza down to 45th Street, where the restaurant’s located. Doesn’t sound too long, but when you stop into every classy store, and pretend you belong there, it’s a lot of work, believe me!)

Our reservation was at 6:30PM because we had to get back to Brooklyn after. I was worried that we would look like nerds, having dinner at a time that would be considered practically the Early Bird hour in Los Angeles. (I came up with a million excuses to give the imaginary people who I thought would check on it when we walked through the door!)

I was shocked to find that the place was already happening! And not with blue-haired seniors, but hunky young guys in suits! Turns out that in NY, people go to dinner straight from work, and THEN go home, as opposed to here, where most of us go home, change, and re-group before heading out, even on week-nights.

Morton’s was packed the whole evening, starting with business-attired folk early on and moving to the more casually dressed around 9PM. And there were lots of birthdays throughout what my mother would call a “plain little Tuesday night.” Carol and I felt anything but plain here. The personnel were the highlight to me.

Michael was the Maitre D this night, and couldn’t have been more handsome or informative. I never even found out what Bob’s function was, (probably Manager) but he’s Mr. Personality and kept us entertained. When he gave me a compliment, and I said I had to jot down that he loves me, he answered, “How could I not?!” Can you see why we were there so long?

The restaurant almost got a bad review by giving us a waitRESS, rather than a waitER, but Adrienne was very nice and is a writer, too, so it all worked-out.

Morton’s looked gigantic to me, by New York standards, with several different dining areas. Carol loved the wood decor and good jazz (mainly Ella) that played in a pleasantly low volume. We sat in one of the very comfortable booths, near the front wine lockers, which are a classy touch for the regulars. The lighting was perfect for even me, and I loved the knives that doubled as mirrors (for me, anyway).

Filet Mignon with Grilled Asparagus and Lyonnaise potatoes.

There was only one problem with the food; they’re so generous that they start you off with a humongous delicious soft onion roll loaf, that’s enough for ten people, so we struggled to eat the real food when it came! We were both seriously full because we couldn’t keep our hands off that bread!

We tried the Colossal Shrimp Alexander as an appetizer and it was great. We loved the seasoning so much that it didn’t even need the accompanying butter sauce. I had the Filet Mignon, which shockingly tasted even better the next day. That usually isn’t the case. I had thought I ruined it by ordering it medium well, rather than just medium, but it was still delicious. (Lesson learned: Always start with just medium. You can have them cook it more if need be, but never less.)

Here’s where we did something that must have raised some eyebrows in the kitchen. Carol’s my East Coast Eadie, the one who’ll try any food for reviewing purposes. Adrienne had just shown us a live lobster, (Morton’s is the place that does a show-and-tell of their menu) and I felt bad for him to sit around just waiting for the end, so I asked Carol to have that, since I don’t eat lobster.

Lobster platter, after it was shelled.

She usually doesn’t either, so we didn’t know how to order it, and figured a whole one was the way to go, rather than just the tail. So, we ordered a four pound lobster! For one little girl! They must have been floored! We were, too, when we saw the size of the dish. Thank goodness she lives with an older man who could appreciate our folly, and was willing to sample the leftovers and give us his opinion.

It was a really beautiful presentation, and looked even better when they shelled it for her, which they offered to do and she was only too happy to accept. She said it was sweeter than she expected, which Charlie, our third reviewer in absentia, commented on as well. He said it was very tasty and was thrilled with it.

He did such a good job on the lobster that we gave him a crack at the Grilled Jumbo Asparagus, too. He devoured that dish and said that the balsamic glaze had just the right amount of stang. Morton’s has steamed fresh asparagus also, but we wanted to try something different, which this was.

Dessert Tray

Potatoes are my favorite food, which I don’t think most people know, and I had to hold myself back and order just two kinds. The Lyonnaise were really crispy, just the way I like them, and the Jumbo Baked Idaho was beyond belief. I didn’t know they grew so large. It was truly jumbo! And moist and soft. It was so amazing that I’m still regretting that I didn’t bring it home to my little mother, who would have been shocked by it’s size. (I’ll stop in and get one on my Fall trip.)

You’d think that by now we’d be way too full for dessert, wouldn’t you? But never underestimate the desire of two chocoholics, especially since Bob had slipped us the info that there were THREE chocolate desserts. (To be thorough, Michael showed us the whole dessert tray, but we had eyes for only our dark friends.)

Their soufflé was actually a true soufflé, and not the ones that are erroneously categorized as such at most places. It was gigantic, but we weren’t that into it, being used to the plebian ones and all. The Chocolate Velvet Cake was Bob’s pick, possibly because it contained Myers rum and cherry brandy, and could get a girl modestly tipsy! Carol’s like me in that she hates the taste of alcohol, so once again, we sent it home to Charlie who said that it was the piece de resistance and out of this world. (Maybe next time, I should just take Charlie instead of Carol!)

VIP after-dinner drinks.

We girls agreed that the Hot Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream was our favorite. Good thing we were so stuffed or we may have fought over it. By now, the guys knew that we don’t imbibe, but they offered us the VIP after-dinner drink tray anyway, to mae sure we knew we were special. It is a lovely touch, though, and I’m sure appreciated by the other VIPs (singles, hotel guests, first timers, etc.) who do accept the generous offer.

Carol was happy with her Harney & Sons tea selections, and I with my glass of cold milk. And I’m sure the staff with our exit!

Morton’s, The Steakhouse 551 Fifth Ave. 212-972-3315


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