My Dinner with Efren

I haven’t done a restaurant review in a while and I certainly haven’t stuck with my New Year’s resolution(s), so I thought I’d commit a few unofficial words to a restaurant I dined at recently: Morton’s of Chicago, Anaheim. I’ll attribute my lack of writing and reviewing to two things: I haven’t really been inspired to write and life is just getting in the way. I know. If I’m supposed to be a professional writer, these are two excuses I need to lick.

Anyway, one of the casualties of the economy is a coworker of mine, Efren. We all saw the signs for weeks. He’s the tradeshow coordinator and since my company isn’t doing any shows, it stood to reason that they would do away with the position entirely. They finally did. Since he’s also a good friend, I offered to take him out to his favorite steakhouse to mark the occasion and perhaps celebrate since he was free.

I was told that Morton’s of Chicago was an amazing restaurant for carnivores. Now that I’m looking it up, I guess they’re just called Morton’s Steakhouse. Anyway, since I’m a huge Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse fan, I figured I’d give the competition a try and see if they could possibly top some of the best steak I’ve ever had.

After I made the reservations through OpenTable, the restaurant called me to confirm. “Are you celebrating a special occasion?” the pleasant hostess asked.

“My friend just got laid off and I’m taking him out. Do you have a cake for that?”

“No,” she giggled, “but we’ll give you great service.”

Morton’s didn’t quite deliver on that assurance. I blame it on the location. It’s close to Disneyland. The reason that’s bad is because it has the same effect that malls have on restaurants that are either inside the mall or on the outskirts: quality diminishes in every aspect. I’m not entirely sure why. I think it has to do with the sheer volume of diners they have to serve. Typically, the meals are hectic and the ambience noisy. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, mind you. Fast food joints are largely unaffected by malls. I’ve also had very good experiences with The Olive Garden regardless of its location. Nevertheless, I advise that mall restaurants and restaurants in close proximity to malls be avoided if you really care about your dining experience. With that said, I consider Disneyland to be the mother of all malls, attracting millions of customers from across the globe and negatively impacting restaurant experiences for miles around.

For an upscale restaurant like Morton’s, this is doubly bad, because they charge you fine-dining prices, but the servers automatically assume you’re just another low-tipping tourist. So while the service is definitely better than what you’ll get at most family chains, the service at the Anaheim Morton’s is also on the low end of the fine-dining experience.

When you’re paying fifty-bucks a plate, there’s a certain expectation of the service. You don’t expect them to stack plates on your table when they’re clearing it. You don’t expect them to serve from the left, forcing them to invade your personal space when they set a soup spoon – or other utensil – down. You don’t expect them to let your water glass drain below a third full. Lastly and arguably most importantly, the food should taste better.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my lobster bisque. When I used to serve it, the chef had me add a quennel of some kind of lobster paste. Morton’s serves it with half a petite lobster tail. Very nice touch. My prime rib, however, was a little tasteless. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not as experienced with food as I should be. Maybe this is how true steak-lovers take their meat, but my prime rib was so lean all I could really taste was meat. Meat is good. I like meat, but I like complementing the taste of meat with a little something. Even a dash of salt would have been good. I knew something was missing when I was spending most of my dinner eating the sides instead of my steak. Alas.

My final verdict is to avoid the Anaheim location of Morton’s Steakhouse. It isn’t worth it for the price.

And just in case you’re curious, Efren is doing alright.