Thursday, December 28, 2006

Morton’s of Chicago

C says:

Before Thursday night, I was a Morton’s virgin (even A has been here before), and after hearing and reading so much about it, we finally had the opportunity to go. Since it’s definitely a pricey restaurant, we had to find an occasion, so on A’s birthday we went for dinner with his parents.

I expected a very formal, fine dining experience because I’ve been told that it’s a very quiet and romantic restaurant, where people speak in hushed tones and you’d feel uncomfortable if you accidentally clinked your fork against the plate too loudly. Which is why I was very surprised to see the restaurant three-quarters full when we walked in, with children at a fair number of tables. There was also a pretty high level of background noise, to the point where you’d have to speak quite loudly to your dining companion to be heard. Suits me fine; I hate restaurants where you can hear a pin drop and I have to restrain myself from talking too loudly and seeming uncouth.

The Morton’s experience begins with the waiter pushing a trolley laden with – a large silver platter with one cut each of the steaks that they serve (bone-in ribeye, Porterhouse, New York strip steak, double cut Fillet Mignon, and double Porterhouse) so you can see the monstrous sizes, a live Maine lobster (poor thing), a fillet each of tuna and of salmon, and some perfunctory vegetables like jumbo asparagus. The waiter then proceeds to recite the entire menu by heart, at train wreck speed, whilst pointing to the corresponding items on the trolley for your visual gratification. After he’s done, you’re none the wiser about what they offer (unless you’re sitting near the blackboard with the menu, like we were), and they give you the menu anyway so you can decide what you want.

The portions here are absolutely huge, so if you think about it, it’s not that expensive since 2 people can easily share a starter, steak and dessert and still be very full. The bone-in ribeye and Porterhouse steaks weigh in at a ridiculous 680 grams each (about one and a half pounds), and cost $84 and $86 respectively. A double-cut Porterhouse (1.3 kg; 3 pounds) is $172.

What I like about the place is that they don’t try to make you spend as much as possible. The waiter actually advised us that a double Porterhouse and a bone-in ribeye for 4 of us to share was way too much, and told us a single Porterhouse and ribeye would be more than sufficient. Sure enough, it was.

We ordered the Porterhouse and the ribeye because those seem to be their specialties. The ribeye comes with the huge rib attached (photo right).

The Porterhouse (below) is essentially a larger version of a T-bone steak. On one end of the T-bone is the striploin, and on the other end is the tenderloin (fillet). So you essentially get to try two different cuts of meat on one steak.

We ordered both of them medium rare, after ascertaining that their medium rare wasn’t a medium in disguise. The steaks were both cooked perfectly, and because their meat is aged for three to four weeks, even the rare bits in the centre were pink but weren’t bloody at all. Out of the three different types of meat that we had, we were surprised to find that the striploin from the Porterhouse was the best. It had the best mix of flavour and tenderness. The tenderloin was a tad flat-tasting, and the ribeye was sinewy in some places, probably because of how thick the cuts are – almost 2 inches before cooking.

The meat had a good chargrilled flavour, but it wasn’t as tender as I expected it to be. A said the last time he went, he had the Prime Rib ($95) and he said that in comparison, the Prime Rib was much better. Maybe it’s because they use both US and Australian beef – because of import regulations, any beef imported from the US can’t have any bones, so all the bone-in steaks at Morton’s are Australian beef; the only items that are US beef are the boneless ribeye, and the Prime Rib.

We shared a hot chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert as well. It costs a whopping $23, but when they heard that it was A’s birthday, they were sweet enough to give it to us on the house. Apparently it used to be called Godiva chocolate cake, but they’ve since stopped using Godiva chocolate so now it’s just called hot chocolate cake. It was pretty good, one of the better ones I’ve had. They clearly use good quality chocolate because the oozy centre is luxuriously fine and smooth.

I must say that my first time at Morton’s, though far from a disappointment, didn’t quite live up to the sky high expectations that I had. I’m now racking my brains to think of another special occasion when we can come back and try the prime rib next.

A says:

The place was way more busy than the last time I went many years ago. If memory serves me, only 3 or 4 tables were occupied and it was pretty dark like an old school Chicago steakhouse back then.

I particularly remember being blown away by the size and the taste of the prime rib. The waiter recommended it but we decided to try the other steaks instead. We really should have listened to him because while the steaks were good, given the high expectations, I was seriously under-whelmed.

I’m glad me mum gave the waiter a nice tip. The service was great although a bit slow. Probably because of the crowd, which C thinks was due to the holiday/bonus season. I guess we’ll see when we next go back.

On a side note, although the focus is usually on the huge mains (with minimal garnishing), I must say that the sides are very, very good as well.

Morton's of Chicago
4th floor, Oriental Singapore
5 Raffles Avenue

(S) 039797
Tel: 6339-3740
Dinner only, from 5 pm

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