Need a butter knife at Morton’s? Bring your own. Its places are set with only one cutting utensil, a huge, intimidating machete-like knife that’s used for everything from slicing steak to spreading butter. It’s company tradition to provide just these weapons of war, and no other knives, to its customers. This is clearly a restaurant where bigger is better.
But after a meal here, you’ll come to expect that. This international steakhouse chain targets those with big expense accounts, serving up colossal, nearly unfinishably giant portions of classic steakhouse surf’n’turf at premium prices. The Morton’s here isn’t too different, in menu or attitude. Upon entry, every waiter within sight belts out a six-gun salute of welcomes and salutations. They’re really, really happy you’re there – for a split second, then they forget to give you a menu (or did, at least, when we visited).
After a presentation methodically explaining each cut of meat, our waitress casually informed us that many of the items are big enough to be shared. That’s not always true: while creamy cubes of fish and crispy wonton in the ahi tuna tower (180RMB) are enough for two, the three shrimp in the jumbo shrimp Alexander (230RMB) could barely satisfy a solo diner. And while they tasted fresh, at nearly 80RMB per shellfish, they’re hardly great value. The macaroni and cheese (100RMB) and the house salad, served with a kick of Dijon mustard (118RMB), make decent, but pricey, additions.
Prices, and those eye-boggling sizes, will drive those without an expense account to split the bill. But make sure you bring a friend with similar sensibilities, as eating a cut of New York strip, a honking 340g at 598RMB (that’s not even the smallest size!), is unfathomable for those unused to American portions. And at those prices, the house’s imported slabs of Australian cow should be a lot better than what they are: chewy, tough and sometimes in need of a lot of fiddly knife work to take apart. Filet mignon (240g, 568RMB) is a better choice, with the steak so tender it simply falls apart, but the slices just don’t compare with similarly priced meat elsewhere in town.
Where Morton’s does make itself a deal is in the happy hour. Get there from 5-8pm Monday-Friday for a selection of knock-you-flat, huge martinis and cosmopolitans for 45RMB, with impressive volume in each drink and free mini-steak sandwiches. There’s an awe-inspiring wine selection suitable for any cut of red meat, and a creative list of a few individual cocktails: the lychee margarita (88RMB) benefits from a refreshing use of sake rather than tequila, but tastes more like a martini. If you still have room, the frighteningly large cut of moist carrot cake (98RMB) laced with cream cheese can end that fast.
Morton’s food is mostly very good, when you can afford it. But the chain is best when it’s showing off, and, for a quality steakhouse, it doesn’t survive past the first big impression.