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Raising the Steaks

Las Vegas Steak Houses
Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 1)

Reviewed only a week after opening its doors last July, Del Frisco's quickly raised the bar for steak eateries in Las Vegas. Its level of food and service are a testament to the kind of quality control that the owners maintain as the small chain grows (this is its fifth location). The pampering begins immediately after you step out of your cab and enter through the foyer in back of the low-slung building. Sit down and you're attended by a phalanx of wait staff, bringing water, hot bread, cold drinks. Ask them to leave you alone and they discreetly disappear until they mystically divine you need service again.  

Like all great steak houses, Del Frisco's indulges its patrons to excess, but never to a fault. Appetizers are large, but not meal killers, and lean toward seafood (oysters, crab cakes, much shrimp) with the welcome inclusion of beluga caviar (available in servings up to 8 3/4 ounces).  

The sea is also well represented on the entrée menu (Australian lobster, halibut with citrus vinaigrette, salmon with Tchoupitoulas sauce), but you don't come to Del Frisco's for that. What you do come for are its signature cuts like the 24-ounce prime Porterhouse and Double Eagle strip steak (bone-in, 26 ounces). These are meat masterpieces and showcase the high-quality Midwestern beef that is delivered twice a week. A personal favorite is the cut that is almost apologized for on the menu. An asterisk next to the prime rib eye (16 ounces) notes that while it's flavorful, it's also well marbled.

"Don't order it if you want a lean cut of beef," the menu warns. Do order it, however, if you want the sensation of completely savory, buttery meat lingering on your palate for the entire evening. The waiter stresses that the steaks are cooked "true," which translates to a little rarer than you might be used to. One carnage complaint: no Béarnaise sauce.  

Collecting trophy wines at auction is a passion for Lincoln and it spills over into the cellar at Del Frisco's, which has been recognized in other locations with such honors as the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Predictably for a steak house, it excels in the categories of big bold red wines, and regions in California and France are best represented.  

While not as grandiose as the 16,000-square-foot New York venue, which opened only months earlier, the Vegas Del Frisco's has a sort of crisp and clean clubbiness to it. Wainscoting offers the prerequisite wood of the genre, without the concomitant dreariness of full wood paneling. Force yourself to fit in a strawberry and ice cream parfait and amble over to the darker, but roomy cigar lounge. There you'll find a selection of such premier hard-to-get smokes as Fuente Fuente OpusX "A" ($200), Padrón Anniversary Exclusivo ($25) and Ashton Virgin Sun Grown No. 1 ($25). If you're a regular you can rummage through your private locker. Order from the selection of superpremium whiskeys (running heavily to Scotches) and listen to the piano player's rendition of "As Time Goes By." Play it again, Dee.    

MORTON'S OF CHICAGO
400 East Flamingo Road 702/893-0703  

One of the comforts of Morton's is the consistency of quality and service from location to location. You can walk into its Singapore restaurant and expect to get essentially the same dining experience as you had in Boston the week before. The hobgoblin of this consistency is the famous Morton's tableside menu presentation.  

Your waiter arrives with a cart piled with meat sealed in plastic wrap, as well as vegetables and a live lobster. In a very scripted and wooden manner he runs through the cuts of aged Midwestern meat Morton's serves, from the huge Porterhouse (one-third filet mignon, two-thirds New York strip steak separated by a bone) to the diminutive filet. Then he shows you some of the salad offerings and explains how easy it will be to eat the lobster after it is sliced and cracked. The disadvantage of this is you tend to space out on what he's saying as you start to wonder how old that sirloin is that he's holding and whether the lobster should be reported to the humane society. The advantage is the first-timer gets an idea of what kind of overindulgence he'll encounter at Morton's.  

You see exactly how big a three-pound lobster is as it twitches away in front of you and realize that, if by some bizarre twist that's not big enough, you could have a five-pounder. The Porterhouse could serve three. The potatoes are football-sized. A tomato at Morton's could be a filling lunch for some.  


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