The experience continues as you are escorted to your table — ours was a large curved booth against the wall — where you are introduced to your two servers, not vice versa as occurs in many less formal places.
While one of them brings water and Morton’s signature onion bread — unfortunately it’s the only choice — the other propels a cart to the table that contains samples, not plastic models, of the evening’s entrees, complete with a squiggly, oversized lobster.
Only after each dish has been explained is a menu produced, with prices.
We began by sharing two appetizers. The Broiled Sea Scallops ($11) were barely braised and perfectly done, wrapped in bacon and distinguished from the ordinary by apricot chutney. The Shrimp Alexander ($12) was baked in breadcrumbs and a white wine butter sauce.
When we hesitated over a salad selection, our waitress helpfully suggested that we share the house salad ($7), which includes chopped egg and anchovies with a blue cheese dressing. My wife, Nancy, winced at the anchovies so the server offered to place them all on my half. We needn’t have worried, though, as I found only one anchovy and not a lot of egg either. With little to compete with it, the dressing, which was more like Caesar than blue cheese, nearly overwhelmed the salad.
There are about a dozen varieties of prime aged beef that come from the Chicago stockyards and range in size and price up to a gargantuan double porterhouse for two (48 ounces, $70) that is carved tableside.
I chose the regular Porterhouse Steak (24 ounces, 1 and a half inches thick, $35), which is part filet, part sirloin, separated by a T-bone. It was cooked to medium-rare perfection, and the filet portion was as good as I’ve ever eaten.
Whole Maine Lobster is available at $22.50 a pound, but with an average weight of four to five pounds, $100 for an a la carte entrée is out of range for all but the most profligate expense-account diners.
Nancy ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($30), a bargain by comparison. There were three of them, but they were not up to the quality we expect in a top-drawer place. They contained more breading than is customary (actually none is needed) and the flavor was on the bland side.
We did not complain, however, as the overall experience of the evening was excellent. But the server noticed that the serving was only half eaten and contacted the manager, who told us, “we need to know” what went wrong. He already had ascertained that the chef, Michael Volosevich — who came from Los Colinas at the Remington at Valley Ranch in Irvington, Texas — had cooked them himself.
The apologies were not finished. After we finished our meal with a Grand Mariner Soufflé ($13), the manager reappeared with a selection of complimentary after-dinner drinks.
In a follow-up telephone conversation with the general manager, Sheri Bennington, I wondered whether the crabmeat had been pasteurized, because nearly all of Morton’s food is shipped from a central warehouse in Chicago, to maintain consistency within the chain’s restaurants. She assured me they were not, although they had come from Chicago. The exception is the produce, which is selected locally.
The Richmond location, which seats 144 in an elegant dining room, is the 65th for the chain, whose restaurants stretch from San Juan to Singapore. It formerly was called Morton’s of Chicago, but it now has more restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area (five) than in Windy City (four).
Frequent diners get their name on a wine locker at the entrance. Those less able or willing to eat there that often can stop in for a drink at the bar between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m, where complimentary filet sandwiches are offered. S
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