MORTON'S: MEAT & A MARTINI ON DATE NIGHT
I have a soft spot for Morton’s Steakhouses. I know they are a chain and, the good lord knows I have railed against chains often enough on the blog. But, having a steak at a Morton’s Steakhouse always feels like going to visit a favourite old relative, a relative who takes $200+ out of your wallet before letting you leave, but a relative never the less.
Morton’s in Chicago was one of the first steakhouses I ever visited on a business trip to the US. I immediately fell in love with the themes that are now so familiar to me at steakhouses across America. The waiters in their long, starched aprons displaying trays of raw beef while explaining the house cuts to bemused customers. The bathtub sized martinis that may not be very good but are so strong they get you drunk enough not to care. The wine lists as thick as a phone directory and the sides dishes that you really don’t need, but order anyway to later take home in doggy bags where they will sit in the fridge until you throw them away after a week.
I was going to be dining alone last Friday night and, with Sybil being no great fan of the cow, it struck me as the perfect time to snaffle a leather booth and indulge myself in a good steak and a large cocktail without the sight of her rolling her eyes at me across the table. My good chum, John Haskell, who is a long time regular at Morton’s in Beverly Hills, offered to make the reservation for me when I shared lunch with him at Langer’s and I spent the rest of the week planning which one of their signature steaks would have the pleasure of gracing my plate when Friday finally came around.
Then Sybil cancelled her planned trip and Friday went from being solo night to date night. When we arrived at Morton’s, there was no real thought involved for me and I just sipped on my first powerful martini of the night as our server waved various bits of raw cow flesh us at us and tried to persuade Sybil to take the waggling tail portion off a still live lobster.
I have said it many times before, but starters in steakhouses serve little other purpose than to fill the time between ordering and when your steak arrives. Those we chose at Morton’s, for the record Lump Crab meat Cocktail and Tuna Tartare, were decent enough and served their purpose of distraction until the main courses were presented.
If a place like this couldn’t get a steak right, then there really would have been a major Majumdar hissy fit. I am pleased to report that my “Chicago Style Bone in Rib-Eye” was a great piece of Nebraskan USDA Prime and cooked perfectly. They say you are never too old to learn and, in recent years, I have gone from demanding all my steaks rare, whatever the cut, to understanding that a rib-eye with its network of marbling, needs a longer cooking time to melt down the extra fat. I may now put up with people telling me how to have my steak cooked, but I still demand that it is given a decent char while it is on the grill. Mine had. It bloody well should have done of course. Morton’s have cooked thousands of the things over the years. But, when you eat as many steaks as I do, you know how often such a seemingly simple task can be botched.
If the steak was good, the lobster that had given up its tail for Sybil’s benefit had not done so in vain. Meaty and rich, barely needing the drawn butter that came with it. Sybil struggled to finish the huge portion of seafood despite my constant reminders that she was attending against my wishes and was as much an added financial burden as a welcome companion (it was the martini talking, I swear) Although we managed to polish off a few thick spears of asparagus, the other side dish of Mac & Cheese remained almost untouched and was decanted into a take away container, placed on the table as we shared a dessert of rich chocolate cake with a molten centre.
Added to a few glasses of wine and a well deserved service charge, this brought the total cost to.…. Well, I really don’t want to think about it, because the other thing I remembered, as the bill was deposited, was that another theme of all good steakhouses is that they are murderously expensive. When my credit card bill arrives, the wailing and gnashing of teeth will probably be heard in space.
Still, Sybil had a good time and seems to understand that next time we have a date night it will probably be at a place where the condiments are served in sachets and the staff wear hair nets.