The steakhouse in the Marina Bay precinct offers solid, unpretentious slabs of meat that hit you where it should
Morton’s of Chicago, an age-old steakhouse that has called level four of Mandarin Oriental Singapore home for the past 20 years. You wouldn’t be here if you were here for fancy menus that were updated every couple of months. What you instead will find are American classics like Cocktail Shrimp (served in a margarita glass, no less), Crabcake patties and of course, steaks (sans sides of fries) done to your liking. But therein lies a dilemma, while Morton’s has perfected its recipe for being lauded as one of, if not the best, steakhouse in Singapore, does it need to slide in new offerings every now and then to attract a younger crowd?
Strangely enough, neither Daryl Lee (DL), motoring editor, nor Charmaine Tai (CT), web editor, have found a day in their combined 63 years of life to pay a visit. Until today, given that Morton’s has introduced a seasonal menu. While last year showcased two mains and a dessert that is now a permanent fixture on the menu, the latest offers two appetisers, one fish and two mains.
Appetiser: Burrata, Grilled Asparagus and Baby Heirloom Tomato Salad ($32++)
CT: Nothing better to whet my appetite than a salad drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. The burrata isn’t as creamy as I’d like it to be, but that’s a good thing, considering the rest of the courses are substantial, and will surely test the strength of my appetite. The restaurant is rather generous with portion sizes, so pace yourself.
DL: It’s a salad in a steakhouse. Nothing much to see here, move along please. The leaves were fresh and the lemon vinaigrette, uh, zesty, but don’t expect fireworks. I’d have liked a few more asparagus spears, though. Or at least, if they weren’t julienned so thinly. The relatively dim mood lighting and aforementioned huge portions conspire to hide the asparagus so expertly, it had me wondering what they were for a moment.
Appetiser: Nueske’s Bacon Steak with Peach Bourbon Glaze ($20++)
CT: This is what I imagine to be an American staple: A pair of inch-thick bacon steaks about a foot long each and smoked to perfection. It’s with the best intentions that I recommend getting this dish to share between at least a party of eight, lest someone suffers a cardiac arrest there and then due to the sudden clogging of arteries. I prefer bacon to be crisp, and found this too gelatinous for my liking. That said, the scent of apple-smoked wood chips had one heck of a party with my tastebuds.
DL: They say that you can’t have too much of a good thing. I always thought it was hogwash, but obviously I haven’t yet reckoned with Morton’s bacon steaks. And this is coming from a person that thinks bacon should be added to the list of major food groups. And all the more so considering how expertly the bacon steaks were prepared – not overly brined, sweet or smoky. It was decidedly more-ish and not cloying at all, given how easy it is to get bacon steaks wrong.
Fish: Seared Cod with Romesco Sauce (S$78++)
CT: Unfortunately, this dish didn’t sit that well with me. The cod was too oily, with the Romesco (a fancy way of saying pureed red pepper) doing close to nothing to salvage it. The fishiness pretty much overpowered any other flavour on the plate. Perhaps a fish of a firmer texture with less intense flavours would have fared better.
DL: I’m willing to put this down to them getting a bad cut of fish. It’s fishy, as Tai noted, but in addition to that, the fish was overly seasoned in places and in some, not at all. It’s a little sad, considering how much I like the Romesco sauce. Plenty of umami punch from the tomatoes with just the right amount of tang.
Main: 7oz American Wagyu Fillet with Fire Roasted Poblano Butter (S$108++)
CT: This was served medium rare, but surprisingly, had more bite than the ribeye. It’s probably due to the leanness of the cut that I thoroughly enjoyed this, and polished off whatever remained. While the spicy Mexican butter cuts the flavour, I was more than happy to enjoy the steak as it is. And despite my preference for medium steak, this was my favourite of the two without a doubt.
Thankfully, this steakhouse does away with chilli sauce and ketchup (sorry, President Trump). What instead you’ll get are English and French mustards.
DL: I’ll preface this by saying I have low expectations of tenderloin. With too little connective tissue to give it texture and a milky aftertaste that colours the flavour, it’s always bizarrely in demand and overpriced. Anyway, this one was different. The poblano butter’s cumin didn’t overpower the meat, as I was expecting, but complemented it. Highly commendable.
Main: 8oz American Wagyu Royale Ribeye Cap Steak ($112++)
CT: We’re told this steak is served medium to medium well, as any rarer it’ll be too tough to chew through. I was silently rooting for this steak given that its doneness was to my liking (medium). But perhaps I had more than my fair share of the fillet, and found the beefy flavours in this dish a tad too heavy.
DL: If there was a cut that could dethrone hanger steak (or onglet) as my favourite cut, it would be the ribeye cap. It’s chock full of beefy goodness and more fatty (because it is ribeye, after all) than onglet, but with less of a ‘crunchy’ bite. Unfortunately, like onglet, it’s very susceptible to the way it’s cut on the plate – a lengthwise slice will yield an incredibly stringy, tough feel. As such, it absolutely doesn’t like to be shared, which works out for me, since the only way you’ll get me away from it is to pry it from my cold, dead hands. Morton’s does this brilliantly well, as you might expect. Best enjoyed as it is, all the better to appreciate its wonderfully nuanced flavour.
Dessert: Chocolate Layer Cake ($24++)
CT: Disbelief. That’s how I feel as a mammoth slice of cake is placed in front of us after five full-sized courses. It’s an unpretentious four-layer chocolate cake slathered with chocolate fudge. But I’m a trooper, and I dig in. It’s light, moist, and surprises with salted flakes in each bite. That said, I’d have preferred it without the mousse, given how tonight’s dinner was rather heavy. I also regret allowing Lee to bring the leftovers home.
DL: I have a terrible sweet tooth and I also have a soft spot for a good chocolate cake. Oddly enough, the cake itself wasn’t actually that sweet, and the caramel sauce was a little unnecessary, given how delightfully rich, yet light the cake was. Speaking of light, the sponge was airy, with just enough bitter chocolate to act as a counterpoint to the fudge. It’s so good, I’m considering adding a clause to my will that demands that I be buried with a slice of this when I die.