It’s expensive here but you’ll always remember the meal
You wouldn’t know it from the upscale décor or the sophisticated black, white and silver color scheme that extends to the walls, furniture and table linens, or the hulking clear wine cases that house individual bottles that go for more than $400 a pop, but the same company that owns Morton’s The Steakhouse also owns Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
Morton’s downtown Rochester outpost, which opened in the fall of 2017 inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, feels every bit the clubby meat-and-potatoes steakhouse that made Morton’s an international hit with more than 76 locations worldwide. Valet parking is available and, per Morton’s’ website, business attire is recommended, though a jacket and tie are not necessary.
For the most part, dining at Morton’s — dinner only — is a la carte. Expect to pay $13 to $20 for appetizers and salads, $40 to $60 for steaks and entrees and $14 for shared side dishes. With a drink, dinner for two can easily eclipse $200.
For many, the price of Morton’s relegates it to a special event or a very flexible business expense account. But the restaurant seems to know this. Mention you’re visiting for a birthday when booking your reservation — which are recommended — and you’ll be greeted with personalized menus at the start of dinner and a complimentary dessert to finish the meal.
Dinner started with onion bread and butter and escargot ($15), served six to an order in the classic round cast iron dish. Soaked with garlic butter and topped with crispy puff pastry, the snails were tender with just a bit of briny flavor, like a mild oyster.
The bread is served as a whole loaf that the diners cut with a steak knife — or rip apart with their hands. The bread was deliciously warm and slightly sweet but cutting the bread at the table inevitably leads to a scattering of crumbs, which feels out of place at this white table cloth restaurant.
Of course, I had no problem ripping off a piece of warm bread and dabbing it in the leftover garlic butter from the escargot, so maybe it wasn’t as out of place as I thought.
Entrée offerings include chicken, seafood, pork and pasta, but if you’re at Morton’s, you’re probably there for the steak. The steaks range in size from the 6-ounce filet mignon to the 48-ounce porterhouse for two. We settled somewhere in the middle with the 16-ounce center-cut rib-eye ($55) and the 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($64).
The smaller of the two steaks was served Oscar style, a $16 surcharge for a generous helping of crab, asparagus tips and béarnaise sauce. The crab, tender and flavorful, was so plentiful that it spilled off both sides of the steak. The asparagus were properly cooked with just a bit of snap and the bite of the vinegar in the creamy béarnaise sauce helped cut through the richness of the steak.
Morton’s uses aged USDA prime beef and, in both cases, the steaks were extensively marbled with fat, a testament to their top-tier ranking. The result was a steak with an exceptionally well-developed beef flavor, yet far more tender than any regular supermarket steak. Grilled to the desired rare, both steaks had crispy-yet-melt-in-your-mouth bits of fat on the outside that ranked among the finest single bites of food I’ve eaten.
Dinner was paired with an order of twice-baked au gratin potatoes ($14). The large dish was easily enough for two, with some leftovers. If you like the cheese melted to the side of a crock of French onion soup — and who doesn’t — you’ll love these potatoes. Toasted cheese ran down both sides of the dish, prime for the picking. The potatoes are cubed, which is a departure from the usual sliced preparation found in potatoes au gratin, but the larger size likely helped the potatoes better stand up with the dish’s indulgent cheese sauce, mixed with bacon and leeks.
Among Morton’s dessert offerings are four different soufflés, which must be ordered about a half-hour ahead of time. We chose the chocolate soufflé ($19.50). Like the side dishes, this is a dessert built for sharing.
There were a few pockets of beaten egg white that went unmixed, but the dessert, paired with a side of crème anglaise, was a hit and despite its size, there were no leftovers.
Dinner at Morton’s isn’t cheap, though it is worth noting that happy hour food and drink specials, such as $5.50 beers and $8 to $10 small plates, are served in the bar from Sunday to Friday from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
But make no mistake, it’s a meal you’ll remember, even if it only comes around once or twice a year.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
125 E. Main St., Rochester.