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The new Morton's: Downsized

September 23, 2008 |  1:59 pm

Mortons_2Recently I got a breathless news release informing me that Arnie Morton’s Beverly Hills reopened Sept. 6 with new decor and an updated menu — also, a new name. Heretofore, it will be known as Morton’s The Steakhouse. No comma.

I had a free evening so I thought I’d see how this member of the old steakhouse generation would stack up against the new generation of steakhouses. Funny thing, the place looked almost exactly the same, maybe a bit brighter. There was, admittedly, a new temperature-controlled wine storage area to the left of the door and comfy red velvet barstools in the bar, now called Bar 12.21 (for the date the first Morton’s opened in Chicago in 1978, if anyone asks). New lighting fixtures mean the light is soft, but radiant: a good thing. But when our waiter handed us the menus, which she calls “cheat sheets,” after her visual presentation of the menu, holding up various cuts of meats, giant onions, broccoli stalks and a glowering Maine lobster, I find that the vaunted changes don’t amount to much.

The additions mostly consist of a chilled (or warm) “ocean platter,” plus a small boxed-in section of the menu proposing “slightly smaller” steaks, similar to STK Steakhouse’s petite steak offerings. Looking around the room, though, I don’t see anybody taking advantage of the new, smaller steaks, which, even petite, run from $38.50 to $42.50.

The clientele that night is mostly guys, happily digging into the usual well-aged and amply-proportioned steaks -- the largest of which is the double porterhouse for two at 48 ounces. The best item on the menu that night, the handsome bone-in, doublecut prime rib (available only Friday and Saturday evenings), went for a whopping $49.50. Nobody ever called Morton’s a budget restaurant. But if a “petite” steak costs nearly as much as a big boy, I can see why everybody’s sticking with the regular sizes.

Morton's The Steakhouse, several L.A.-area locations, www.mortons.com.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo: A visit to Arnie Morton's begins with a visual presentation of the menu. By Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times

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