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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 25, 2002

There's no doubt Morton's serves stellar steaks

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

Morton's executive chef Marc Lincoln offers the presentation platters that showcase cuts of beef and a four-pound lobster at the Ala Moana Center restaurant.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser


Ala Moana Center


Dinner: Mondays-Saturdays, 5:30-11 p.m.

Sundays: 5-10 p.m.

Full bar

Valet parking available

1/2 Good

Let's stick to steak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for grading beef. The highest quality rating for beef is called prime, given to only 2 percent of all the beef produced in the country. Cattle are fed for at least 180 days with the best corn and grain products, resulting in superior marbling, flavoring and tenderness. The meat is then dry-aged for a couple weeks to attain ultimate richness and flavor. Prime beef contains 8 to 10 percent fat, which is a big reason it tastes so good. When cooked properly, it results in a tender and very juicy hunka-hunka piece of meat.

Morton's serves such prime-rated beef, a designation they are quite proud of. Not on some of their beef, but on all. At the beginning of your meal, one of your waiters (they work in teams) will roll up a cart of all the products they serve at the restaurant. This meals-on-wheels display is a butcher's dream come to life.

Each cut of meat is displayed and described one by one, in all its primal rawness, to you, the patron. They even lift up a live lobster (four pounds, on average, at $19 a pound) from its plate and allow you to witness it as it flails about, a sight most patrons don't seem to enjoy, if one were to interpret facial expressions. Anyway, we're here for steak; throw the lobster back in its tank, my friend.

The dining room has the requisite dark wood, shiny but subdued light fixtures, and a sparkling glass window that separates it from the lovely lounge/bar area. On one wall, a display of black-and-white, framed photographs of celebrities watches over the action. And at the far end, an open kitchen shows the activity and interplay between the kitchen and wait staff.

Everything here is served a la carte. We began with a couple appetizers, shrimp Alexander ($12.95) and lobster bisque ($10.95). Three large shrimp were lightly coated with bread crumbs, baked and served with a beurre blanc sauce. It's a fairly simple preparation, a very popular dish, we were told; and Miss A devoured it. The lobster bisque was disappointing, too peppery and lacked the proper subtle flavors that comprise great bisque.

I had the porterhouse steak (24 ounces, $37.95), a cut that contains both tenderloin and New York strip steak. It was a big, thick, juicy steak cooked exactly the way I asked.

The ribeye ($31.95) cut comes from the succulent center of the prime-rib roast and has a delicate consistency. Many people say it has the best flavor of any steak. It's also offered Cajun-style.

The New York strip steak (20 ounces, $37.95) is cut from the loin. Nationwide, more New York steaks are sold in restaurants than any other steak. They are usually a denser consistency than other steaks, but still juicy, with exceptional flavor.

Miss A had the double filet mignon (14 ounces, $37.95) and said it was the best she has ever had. This steak is cut from the whole tenderloin and is the most lean and tender cut available. It is considered by many to be a very elegant steak, usually served with béarnaise sauce, as it was here. Often, the only cutting implement needed when eating filet mignon is your fork.

There are several other entree choices — fish, chicken, lamb chops, veal, etc. — but this place specializes in steak, and that's why you'll come here. The vegetable and potato side dishes were adequate but not stellar. Creamed spinach ($8.95) was a bit too peppery, but satisfying nonetheless. Huge steamed asparagus ($8.95) with hollandaise sauce was a bit tough, but the whopping baked potato ($5.75) was fine, split in two and offered with the usual toppings.

No doubt about it, Morton's serves great steaks.

But when considering the entire experience (price mainly, mediocre side dishes and room noise) it isn't a place I would urge you to rush over to.

Reach Matthew Gray at mgray@honoluluadvertiser.com.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to a New York strip steak as a Spencer or Delmonico steak. The Spencer or Delmonico steak is a ribeye steak.