Where to Eat: Morton’s The Steakhouse in Toronto

DSC_2804 (800x533)It’s a little intimidating to dine at Morton’s The Steakhouse for the first time.

It’s partly the location and clientele. Morton’s in Toronto is nestled inside the glamorous Park Hyatt Hotel, in the heart of Yorkville. Past patrons have included celebrities like Sean Penn, Sting, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cleese, and Robin Williams. The driveway is so crammed with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz cars that it’s like crossing a cattle herding.

It’s also Morton’s long-standing reputation as a top notch restaurant. For over 35 years, Morton’s has been a staple for upscale diners craving premium steak, leading it to be roguishly known as “the McDonald’s for the rich.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re at the Morton’s in Toronto or LA,” the waiter explains. “The food tastes the same wherever you go.”

DSC_2816 (800x533)Ironically, this ritzy restaurant was born from a hamburger, back when owners Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch worked together at the Playboy Club in Montreal. One day, Klaus got creative in the kitchen and served a burger to Arnie, unsure of his reaction. To his surprise, Arnie declared it the best of his life, and this “Million-Dollar Hamburger” quickly sparked a business partnership. Since Morton’s The Steakhouse opened in Chicago in 1978, it’s expanded into an international chain of 70 restaurants across the world.

Despite being the playground for the elite 1%, Morton’s in Toronto is homey and comfortable, with cozy leather booths and white-cloth tables draped in white table clothes. An enticing collection of wines line the walls, and there’s an open kitchen where patrons can watch (and salivate) as the chefs prepare massive steaks. The restaurant also has a lounge bar for those seeking a cocktail or lighter fare.

DSC_2778 (800x533)Appetizer Essentials:

There is an extensive menu of appetizers, which if ordered in sequence, could easily add up to a tasty meal. But if you have to choose one, go with the Jumbo Shrimp Alexander: four large, meaty prawns baked in breadcrumbs and herbs, lightly drizzled with lemon juice for a zippy flavour. Underneath, the shrimp bastes in a layer of rich wine butter sauce that will compel you to lick the plate.

Every table gets an onion bread to split, fresh from the oven. Try not to gobble the warm, doughy slices – you’ll need your appetite for the hefty main course.

Morton's SteakSignature dish:

Morton’s earned fame for its selection of prime steak, aged for 28 days and then portion cut by Chicago meat cutters.

“Morton’s has stayed true to its roots,” says Peter Mueller, General Manager and Maitre ‘d of the Toronto location. “Since opening, we’ve continued to serve the best USDA Prime steaks in the city.”

 “Prime” is the highest quality grade given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, awarded according the meat’s tenderness, juiciness and flavour. It’s an exclusive club, with only 2% of the US beef supply earning this designation. True to Morton’s promise, the centre cut filet mignon is tender, lean, and juicy, with a full flavour that hints of charcoal.

HalibutEnticing Entrees:

Although steak is the shining star, the seafood wins best supporting actor. Signature dishes include Alaskan king crab legs, whole baked Maine lobster, seafood pasta, and fresh salmon.  Seafood lovers can also blend the best of both worlds with the “surf and turf” option – crab meat, shrimp, bacon-wrapped scallops, and lobster can be added to entrées at an extra cost.

On the summer menu, the Wild Alaskan Halibut is popular item, with a thick fillet wrapped in prosciutto and served with grilled asparagus on the side. The halibut is a bit bland – more herbs and salt please! – but the basil pesto sauce and prosciutto gave it a savoury flavour.

DSC_2800 (800x533)As a side, the Parmesan & Truffle Matchstick Fries are addictive. Get a single order to split between two people, as it’s an extra large portion.

DSC_2782 (800x533)The Showstopper:

The Watercress Salad proves that you can win friends (and customers) with salad, even in a steakhouse. A plate of mixed greens topped with watermelon, grape tomatoes, spicy pepper, and moist burrata cheese sprinkled with balsamic dressing offers a tasty vegetarian option. The watermelon added a refreshing twist – an ingredient that’s too often underutilized by chefs. Although listed as a seasonal special, the Chef should consider putting this dish on the menu.

DSC_2873 (800x533)Desserts:

The waiter recommends Morton’s Legendary Sundae because it fuses the hot chocolate cake with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Grab a spoon and get your hands dirty mining for chunks of warm chocolate fudge swirling in caramel sauce, whipped cream, and vanilla ice cream.

If I could change one thing:

There is merit to being able to walk into any Morton’s anywhere the world, and get the same taste, quality, and service. But with its international presence, why not create a specialty menu that fuses Morton’s golden oldies with local flavours? At the Toronto location, I’d like to see Morton’s integrate Canadian prime beef onto the menu, which could complement the US-imported steak.

The Verdict

Morton’s The Steakhouse delivers premium tastes and service. It’s a swanky joint with a relaxed atmosphere, ideal for wooing a partner (whether for business or romance). A private event room is available for group reservations of 10 to 80 guests, with no rental fee. A word of advice on dress code: ditch the jeans and wear a “casual chic” outfit instead. It’s Yorkville, dudes.

DSC_2833 (800x533)The Details:

Morton’s The Steakhouse
4 Avenue Road at Prince Arthur
Toronto, Canada M5R2E8
Phone: 416-925-0648

Hours of Operation
Monday – Saturday 5pm – 11pm
Sunday 5pm – 10pm

Dining Room
Monday – Friday 5:30pm – 11pm
Saturday 5pm – 11pm
Sunday 5pm – 10pm

The writer was a guest of Morton’s The Steakhouse in Toronto. The restaurant did not review or approve this article.

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