I have posted about both Mabel Gray and Morton’s before, but it has been awhile. I actually think Morton’s may have been my first restaurant review. So, it was clearly time to revisit not just the actual restaurants, but also the reviews.
I’ll start with Mabel Gray. We just went there with friends to celebrate Mom’s birthday. Mom and I as well as our friends had all been once before, while Dad had never been. When we went previously, we really enjoyed it. The only real reason we hadn’t returned in so long is that the menu is constantly changing. Though the restaurant tries to post it quite regularly, I have seen some menus that would make me want to order one of everything and some that would make me want to stop at Five Guys on the way home.
The ever changing menu is also a good thing. It is not only an indication of the ability of the chef to change and go with the flow of the seasons and what is fresh any given day, but it is also the surest sign that the chef, that would be Chef James Rigato, is also actually in the kitchen on a regular basis.
We wanted somewhere special and different to go for Mom’s birthday and Mabel Gray seemed to fit the bill. It’s a small, like really, really small, place where you’re so close to the next table, the instinct is to greet them and maybe ask their favorite dish. It’s loud but not intrusively so.
We began with Larmandier Bernier champagne. I had never had that variety before and loved the bright crispness of it. Later, I read about it online. The company has great growing practices and this is a bottle I would buy to drink at home. I tasted a couple of the other wines and wasn’t wowed, and the spicy margarita was passable. Dad LOVED this old fashioned.
But let’s talk food. Dad and one friend did the tasting menu, while the rest of us ordered off the main menu. One takeaway from all the food was that the vast majority of the menu contained a fair amount of spice and a few dishes with some relief from the heat would have been nice.
That said, I had the nebrodini mushrooms with tahini, hot sauce, and pumpkin seed dukkah, and was totally blown away. The textures and flavors, and just OMG. I would eat that dish every day. I’d probably also pretty happily eat the sous vide 60 day dry aged bone in American wagyu New York strip that was cooked to medium rare perfection and served with griddled onion slices.
The steak was served with beans (which were a hit at the table), but I’m not a bean fan. When I asked our amazing waitress Moleigh if anything could be substituted, she said chef would make fries. Ummmmmmmm, yes please. Let me tell you, all five of us said they were possibly the best fries we have EVER had. It just goes to show making damn good fries doesn’t have to be complicated or involve a freezer.
The shrimp scampi with garlic bread and squid ink pasta with a perfectly seared scallop were other hits, along with the beer cheese soup, but nothing was left uneaten.
Dessert was my lone criticism of MG on my last visit but this time the key lime tart with coconut crust and rum meringue was another favorite bite. I actually can’t stop thinking about it.
My recommendation for Mabel Gray remains the same. Go whenever you have the chance and try to be open to the adventure and experience.
On to Morton’s. Mom and I met a friend there earlier in the month. We were welcomed with smiles and great service, though I’ll always miss the cart presentation that set Morton’s apart from other chain steakhouses in the past.
The restaurant has undergone extensive renovations since my last visit and looks nice. The bar is particularly welcoming with gorgeous lighting and windows. The windowless main dining room is still kind of a bummer. I don’t want to spend a beautiful summer day in there, so I haven’t in a very long time.
We began with some Moet rose champagne, which was good as expected and served in individual bottles for optimum freshness. The selection of wines, whiskeys, and tequilas is quite impressive. In the future I would be most likely to return to Morton’s for the alcoholic beverage selection and lively bar.
But let’s talk food. We began with the potato chips. It’s hard to go wrong with fresh cut, hot out of the fryer potato chips, and Morton’s most definitely does not. Because I repeat: hot potato chips.
For the main entrée, our friend had lamb chops, which she devoured. Mom had the special Snake River Farms wagyu New York strip medallion. It’s hard to go wrong with SRF, but this particular steak had quite a bit of inedible silver skin in the middle of it.
I wanted to try a steak from Morton’s selection of USDA prime that the manager told us is from Allen Brothers once again as it once was. I ordered the bone in ribeye. It had great flavor, but I could see the moment it was set in front of me that it was gray and looked almost steamed. I took the vast majority of it home and re-seared it. Let me tell you how good that steak was then. The flavor really sang.
The baked potato side was quite tasty with an impossibly fluffy potato. The hash browns were another hit. I also ordered the asparagus, and though I did eat it (I have to have some vegetables with my meal), it was HUGE, untrimmed, and unpeeled. Those are the little touches that are a must when paying big steakhouse prices.
For dessert our friend ordered and enjoyed the chocolate mousse, while Mom and I had the crème brulee. I had been craving it for quite some time, and Morton’s hit the spot.
I know walking into Morton’s to expect steakhouse style food. And that’s fine because I like that food. But for chain and even a lot of high end non-chain restaurants, it’s priced high and some of the mistakes, both big and small, made me feel like we’d wasted money. I am not sure that I can recommend eating there as I have in the past.
In the time since my last dining experience and review at Morton’s, the restaurant scene has changed, food had changed, I have changed, and Morton’s just doesn’t quite hit the spot like it used to or hold up to the other restaurants.