Sometitmes, it helps in writing a review to have not frequented a place for awhile, as the absence makes changes more evident. Such was the case yesterday at Morton's, in Palm Desert, California.
We've been wintering in the desert for fifteen years, or more, and have been to Morton's on every visit. On this trip, we had cocktails at the bar, which, thankfully, finally stocks a good rye whiskey (ri)1. The bar men, Wally, David and Mike are welcoming and, at happy hour, the place is a lot of fun. Oysters on the half shell (Blue Points) at the bar were excellent, cold, nice size and fresh. Our dining experience, however, was where the impact of a change of ownership really showed.
Salads (Morton's and Ceasar) were cold and crisp, but no longer exceptional. The veal chop (done medium) was good, though not hot when served. My New York Strip was ordered medium rare, and it was served tepid and medium well. Billed as a 17-ounce steak on the menu, the portion simply was not what Morton's used to serve...a full 18-ounce sizzler AFTER it came out of the oven. The spour cream mashed potatoes were good, and hot. The prices were what you would expect, but $57 for a steak of that quality simply wasn't appropriate.
So, the formula for the new owners was not difficult to grasp. Charge more, deliver less quality and hope to live off of the old Morton's reputation for as long as possible. We'll be back, but only for happy hour.