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Starters: Prime meats suit Morton's The Steakhouse

It was a dark and stormy night for the preview party of Morton’s The Steakhouse, which is now officially open at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo (2 Fountain Plaza).

The rain and wind didn’t keep guests from checking out the new restaurant that replaces E.B. Green’s Steakhouse.

The first thing folks will notice is the entirely revamped dining room.

The area is swanky from top to bottom with tones of black, gray and gold, a glittering new chandelier, and of course the iconic Morton’s logo. Wall coverings feature LeRoy Nieman’s art prints, a tradition of the restaurant. Black patent crocodile booths are new, as is a giant glass display wall of wine bottles.

Morton's sets opening date

In other words, kiddies, no jeans, sneakers, hats and T-shirts. Dig out your best and shine yourself up for what we are calling Classic Old School Dining experience.

The original Morton’s opened in Chicago in 1978. There are now 78 locations worldwide. (Morton's is part of Landry’s Inc., a multinational diversified restaurant/hospitality/entertainment group.)

The menu reads like 1978, with classic steakhouse dishes. If you are looking for culinary “foams” and edamame noodles you won't find them here. Instead are tried and true steak and seafood offerings on an ageless menu. (Note: Morton's also has gluten and soy sensitive dinner menus.)

Appetizers range from $16 to $26, with classics like jumbo shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell, jumbo lump crab cakes, baked escargot and even two taco choices: tuna or short rib steak. We loved the mini ahi tuna tartare appetizers served on crispy wontons with avocado.

They were representative of the ahi tuna tower on the menu that we are told layers avocado and tuna, then is served with fried wontons to use as scoops. Another hit was the prosciutto-wrapped fresh mozzarella.

Tasty tidbits included these prosciutto wrapped fresh mozzarella bites.

For those who want to splurge even more, the prime ocean platters ($29) come two ways: chilled with Maine lobster and jumbo shrimp cocktails, lump crab meat, oysters and Alaska king crab legs or baked, with scallops wrapped in bacon, jumbo lump crab cakes, grilled oysters and jumbo shrimp Alexander (we think this is a classic sauteed bread-crumbed shrimp with lots of good stuff like garlic, shallots and butter that's served in a white wine beurre blanc sauce).

Jumbo shrimp and oysters on the half shell were super fresh.

Classics continue in the soup and salad portion of the menu ($13-$15) with selections like baked five-onion soup and lobster bisque and Caesar, iceberg and sliced beefsteak tomato salads served with onion or bleu cheese. A chopped salad comes in regular or spinach.

Prime steaks and chops is what Morton’s is known for, and prices reflect the standard, ranging from $38 for a prime pork chop to $129 for the porterhouse for two, a 48-ounce offering. Most steaks range $49-$69. Rack of lamb is $56.

Morton's keeps the open kitchen concept. For opening night folks were served lamb chops and slices of filet mignon.

We have to admit the filet mignon we tried, served perfectly rare, was succulent and delicious. No need for the horseradish sauce. The grilled rack of lamb chop was about as tender and juicy as it could be too.

In a nod to its new city, Morton's served mini prime beef-on-weck sliders. They are not on the menu, however. (They may want to reconsider.)

The prime slider cheeseburgers we tried are on the "bar bites" menu, as are petite filet mignon sandwiches. Morton's housemade brioche rolls really made a difference in addition to the prime beef. Not one hint of toughness, with a nice beefy flavor.

Thin slices of perfectly rare filet mignon didn't need anything but a fork.

While we think the beef is great on its own, upgrades to the steaks and chops include a bourbon sauce au poivre or compound butters - bleu cheese, foie gras cognac, or Wagyu herb – for an additional $7. Any steak can be also served “Oscar style” with jumbo lump crab, asparagus and béarnaise for $16.

While it's not on the menu. Morton's gave a nod to its new city by serving prime beef on homemade brioche weck buns.

Signature dishes include chicken and seafood selections that range from chicken ($30-$36), shrimp scampi ($33), salmon ($39) and sea bass ($49) to market-priced Alaska king crab legs and whole baked Maine lobster. Braised beef short rib is $39.

For the surf-and-turf crowd, Morton’s offers mixed grills for $59, with a variety of options that pair items like a 6-ounce filet mignon with three grilled shrimp and two bacon-wrapped scallops.

For the event, Morton's served grilled rack of lamb chops. Rack of lamb is on the menu.

As is traditional for a steakhouse, side dishes and potatoes for sharing are served a la carte, priced at $14 for classics like creamed spinach, creamed sweet corn and sautéed brussels sprouts to a jumbo baked potato, Lyonnaise potatoes and horseradish mashed potatoes. Lobster mac and cheese is $25.

Morton’s keeps the classics rolling on the dessert menu – cheesecake, key lime pie and double chocolate mousse. That is of course, if you still have room in your stomach.

At the bar, Morton’s keeps the old-school feel with cocktails from the late-1800 to early-1900s, with classics like Blood & Sand, Bee’s Knees and Sazeracs. High end liquors, wines and beers are part of the mix too. According to the website for Buffalo, there are specially priced drinks between 4 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, with $9 "Mortinis" and cocktails, $5.50 domestic beers and $8 wines. Bar bites are $8 to $10.

Service was excellent, and when we asked, were told there are new employees as well as some former employees of E.B. Green's. Alas, there is no Jackie Jocko tickling the ivories. In fact we didn't see a piano, but regardless we think Buffalo will embrace the new Morton's in just the same way.

Hours are as follows:

Bar is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Dining room is open 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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