Monday, September 28, 2009

Morton’s The Steakhouse

Saturday night, my mom, my brother Bill and Bill’s girlfriend Lori took advantage of Morton’s $49.99 steak and seafood dinner in White Plains. Suffice it to say, we had a smashing time, but that might’ve had more to do with the fact that we are a bunch of fun, crazy peeps than anything stellar going on with the service.

Because service was bad: our servers were extremely aggressive and pushed multiple items from the regular menu even though we specifically requested the $49.99 menu ahead of time. And even though we asked for the menu once again upon being seated, our server still felt the need to wheel over a cart and do a five-minute spiel, which involved slowly and deliberately showcasing each cut of meat, lovingly caressing a few potatoes and tomatoes, and completely unnecessarily picking up a wriggly Maine lobster. By the end, Bill and Lori (who had still not seen the $49 menu), were utterly confused and overwhelmed as to what they could and couldn’t order to stay in the $49 set price. There was a lot of, “You could do this, but for an extra $19, you could do this…,” and “Then there’s this, which is an additional $24…” and some roundabout answers. After her spiel, our server left us with regular menus that made no mention of the steak and seafood dinner. When we asked for the special menus again, she disappeared, and came back with two tiny cards for our table of four: all that she could find, she explained.

The timing was really bad, too. Not the actual arrival of courses (this was well-paced), rather, we were constantly being interrupted in such a way where there was no regard for what was going on at our table. “Can I refill that cranberry juice for you?” a server asked three times of my half-full glass, each time interrupting me mid-conversation. Finally, a different server just took the same half-full glass without asking. But took it to clear it, not refill it. The worst and most uncomfortable moment came after dinner. Even though our table had already ordered desserts at the beginning of the meal, the dessert cart was wheeled in and our server once again laboriously began describing each dish. My mom and my brother did not see her appear and were still mid-conversation. Our server, undeterred, just talked a mili-decibel louder. I kicked my mom under the table, and she looked up, genuinely surprised and confused to see our server describing a berry plate.

“Miss?” I said hesitantly. “We already ordered desserts.”

She paused.

“Oh, I know. I was just showing you these for next time.” A carrot cake description commenced.

When she was finished, she gave a little nod, and wheeled the cart away. Our table sat in silence.

“That was weird,” my brother said finally.

“Weird” is a good way to describe the night as a whole. Although service was bad (made all the worse when you are marketing yourself as a high-end steakhouse with premium prices), “bad” certainly was not the case for the food.

Although stellar wasn’t the word, either.

We’ll start with the complimentary bread, a poofy, warm onion loaf:
This was bloody fantastic. Sounds like a bit of a dig to say the bread was one of the more memorable things I ate that night, but all I’m trying to say is that I really, really, really liked this bread. It could win an award.

Next were four Morton’s salads:
Iceberg lettuce, creamy Caesar dressing, anchovies and chopped egg. What’s not to love? (Well, normally, I’m not a fan of Iceberg, but here it was refreshing and crisp.) And anchovies and eggs? And lots of Caesar dressing, so that each piece of lettuce is blanketed in dressing yet still crisp? Mmmmmm…

Next came our single cut filets, accompanied by a choice of seafood:

First, the crabcake:
I didn’t try this, but Lori said it actually had a lot of crab, so she was satisfied.

The bacon-wrapped scallop:
I stole a piece from Bill and this was the winner. The scallops were extremely tender and juicy, and nicely seared on the outside.

…and the Colossal Shrimp Alexander:
Pretty good. But the shrimp was actually… stringy? Could a vein have been left in? How is a shrimp stringy? I don’t know.

Here’s the best picture I could get of my single-cut filet:
I know, the pic isn’t a winner, but alas, neither was the filet. It was certainly very tender, but there was not a lot of flavor, and no one at the table found it particularly memorable.

The $49 menu had said that “sides” were either a potato or a vegetable, yet once we arrived, the server informed us that anything off of the regular “side” menu was fair game.

My mom and I had mapped out our battle plan ahead of time, which involved my mom ordering the potato and splitting it with me, while I would cut my steamed vegetable in half, and share it with her. In a fit of excitement, I went rogue and ordered the creamed spinach:
But the joke was on me, because the creamed spinach was not my favorite. Is was too creamy, not salty enough, and tasted of too much nutmeg.

My mom still split her Jumbo-baked Idaho potato with me because she is the best. But to get me back, she cut it in half and began eating it before I had taken a suitable picture:
The potato is very good at Morton’s. What I didn’t appreciate was the tiny, spoonful of sour cream the server plopped on the massive potato, meant to last us the whole potato. Why not leave the sour cream on the table?

Here is an artful picture of the grilled asparagus, taken by Lori:
Our server warned us that the asparagus was prepared with a balsamic vinegar glaze, but the glaze hadn’t been reduced enough. It was still very vinegary, not very sweet, and as a result, no one really liked this dish.

Dessert was way more delicious, and accompanied by outstanding Douwe Egbert’s coffee.

Morton’s Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake is absolutely deserving of its name. Normally, I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake, much preferring a pie or a pastry, yet this cake is wonderful. The chocolate oozes out of the center when you cut into it, it’s moist, it’s gooey—I would order it again in a heartbeat.
But when would I order it again? Morton’s is expensive. The food was fine for the price we paid —our final bill was a little over $70 per person (with tax and tip) because we ordered the promotion. But on a normal night, I’d be surprised if you could have a meal for less than $100. And then I’d start scrutinizing my dishes even more. “Fine” won’t cut it when I’m paying such a premium. And then there’s the service. We might’ve had a totally different experience with a considerate, more personable server. But nothing about Morton’s service set it apart, rather, it cast an amateur-hour tint on the evening.

Morton’s The Steakhouse
9 Maple Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605


  1. I've only been to Morton's once, so I can't say for sure, but I think the servers are required to show you the carts and entice you to order from them. It's part of the schtick.

    On the other hand, doesn't seem like they were very comfortable with their role.

  2. Your mom told me about the server. Brian and I had a much more pleasant experience with our server while we were there. But I believe Liz is correct about them having to show you the tray to entice you to order off of it, as our server did the same beginning spiel. However, after he gave us the spiel, he did run through the menu for the special $49 meal. It was a nice treat to be allowed any salad we wanted as well as one side each, of our choice, off of the regular menu. As for going when it is full price, I believe you are correct that "fine" will definitely not cut it when paying full price.

  3. least the leftovers were good! :-)

    Didn't matter how crummy the service was or how lackluster the filets...the company was, as always, top notch!