Morton's, The Steakhouse

American, Steakhouse
$$$$ ($25-$34)

Editorial Review

Morton’s makeover stops short of well-done
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No steakhouse in Washington needed a makeover as badly as Morton’s, boring in beige, downtown. When it began renovations in September, the 16-year-old dining room looked every bit its age.

A 40-day operation, performed during off-hours, left the restaurant looking better but still stuck in the past. Metallic accents, mirrored columns and shiny crackled black leather banquettes do not speak to the Obama era. Nor does one of the songs played during my recent reunion, “The Girl From Ipanema.”

Along with the interior changes came menu tweaks. Out went the prime rib and garlic green beans. In came an ahi tuna “tower,” braised beef short ribs and a bone-in veal chop.

The changes take patience to investigate. My experience at the podium is not unlike clearing security at the airport, with a herd of customers in the foyer waiting to be acknowledged. Where oh where is the maitre d’? Once you’re seated, it may take three tries to get the glass of wine you asked for, and entrees might land mere moments after appetizers have been set down.

“Want me to keep that warm for you?” a manager sorta-kinda apologizes for a server’s mistiming. Actually, even if the crab cake sandwich had been remade, it still would have been built with less-than-prime seafood and served with french fries that taste as if they’d started off frozen.

Honey-glazed salmon is too sweet; the filet mignon packing the recently introduced steak tacos is dry and vapid.

There are a couple of dishes I’m always happy to eat at Morton’s. One is the finely chopped spinach salad, a big green hill glossy with a sweet and sassy vinaigrette and tossed with plenty of bacon and hard-cooked egg. The second is the cheesecake, baked in the restaurant’s kitchen and sporting a bruleed top. Both plates are among the choices on Morton’s three-course lunch menu for $29.

The Georgetown branch of the meaty chain is expected to reveal its redo this week. Bourbon Steak has nothing to worry about.