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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 2)

The Morton's experience begins to shine once the preliminaries are taken care of. The signature Porterhouse is, of course, a special experience, but may require a note from your cardiologist to eat on your own. Among the smaller cuts, the filet isn't as good, but comes with a nice Béarnaise sauce (you can wheedle sauce, including beurre blanc, for other cuts than they were intended). The Cajun rib eye is the sleeper on the meat menu, which also includes veal and lamb chops. Salmon and swordfish are available as well.  

It is in the vegetable sides and appetizers that Morton's trumps Del Frisco's. Broccoli arrives bathed in Hollandaise. Beefsteak tomato salads prove that size does matter. The lobster bisque stands out among the savory soups.  

The wine list is also quite large, but not as fully realized as at Morton's in New York and San Francisco. Its retinue of California Cabernets is broad but relatively safe and young, with wines such as Beringer, Caymus and Opus One. The large list is impressive.  

The cigar selection doesn't reach the high bar that Del Frisco's has set. The proferred brands--Davidoff, Montecristo, Macanudo and Partagas--are aimed at a milder palate. Cigars are enjoyed in the woody bar room that also excels in whiskeys and after-dinner drinks.  

The wait staff, while quite attentive, seems to be always trying to sell you more food, even if you've tried begging off. In retrospect, you might deem that a favor, however, as you relent and sinfully dive into the chocolate velvet cake.    

3900 Paradise Road 702/791-7011  

Of the steak corner trine, Ruth's Chris is easily (with 69 outlets worldwide) the most well represented outside of Vegas. True to the restaurant's origins (founder Ruth Fertel bought Chris Steak House in New Orleans and changed its name per her contract when she switched locations), it, like all the chain's other venues, does steak-house fare with a Louisiana flair. Dishes such as shrimp Remoulade, Louisiana seafood gumbo and bread pudding with whiskey sauce dot the menu, which brags that true to "New Orleans Style, we serve you portions generous enough to share."  

Also true to the Big Easy roots is its decidedly casual atmosphere. This is in part by design, but must also be a function of its strip mall location and comparatively pared menu. One probably doesn't come to Ruth's Chris expecting the same big-night-out experience that is the promise of the other two restaurants in this steak continuum. Not that formality of dress or manner is much of an issue in Las Vegas. Just don't expect to be seated near a lot of people wearing suits and ties. On the other hand, that refusal to stand on form affords one advantage that the other two steak houses don't: service at lunchtime.  

Ruth's Chris makes much of its particularly gluttonous steak preparation. The aged Midwestern beef is seared at 1,800 degrees to lock in flavors and then served in sizzling butter on a scorching 500-degree plate. Aside from the obvious safety concerns (waiters make a point of warning patrons about the intense heat), one wonders how such a cholesterol tonic goes over in these days of political correctness. The waiter says few opt for their meat without the butter and some brave souls actually ask for more.  

The deep wine list, while not cutting-edge, stands out among the testosterone-laced steak house collections of reds with its many mature and established Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, such as Opus One and Caymus Special Selection. The Bordeaux list is liberally laced with first growths such as Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild.  

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