Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A great steak at Morton's in Hong Kong

On Sunday night I finally got my dry aged steak fix, and it was in Hong Kong, living a TRAVELIFE for the long weekend.

Someone was taking me out to dinner and he asked me where I wanted to go -- and I literally had run of the house in terms of choices. Fancy dining. Hearty Chinese. Michelin stars. Local and casual. Elegant French. Trendy Italian.

You name it I could've had it. And what I wanted most for last Sunday night was the best dry aged US beef steak in Hong Kong.


There are many steak houses in Hong Kong, and most of them are good old traditional restaurants and they're also pretty pricey. But among these, there are only one or two that serve an honest-to-goodness dry aged steak in Hong Kong.

Morton's in Hong Kong

It's pretty difficult to commercially serve dry aged steak, you see, as you need the technology and infrastructure for it, so the pool of restaurants is really limited.

And Morton's in Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the few restaurants in Hong Kong that serve dry aged beef. It's probably the best one as well.


Table with a view...

So he got the best table in the restaurant for Sunday night, and this was the corner banquette table with lots of privacy, and a great view of the harbor and also of the entire restaurant.

We could see the Christmas lights and also see all the diners in the restaurant, involved in all kinds of dynamics.


Who goes to Morton's? Basically everyone and anyone who wants to eat a really good dry aged steak.

Morton's in Hong Kong early last Sunday night.
The place soon filled up.

The night we were there, there were romantic couples on dates, parents with little kids in tow, a table of well-dressed executive-type men who looked like they had steak everyday, and two women eating what seemed like an amazing feast of practically everything in the restaurant. These women had the seafood platter, the live lobster, and then a gigantic steak each.

Morton's was full, by the way. By about 8 PM, there was not an empty table in the house.

One wall is lined with photos of all the famous people who've eaten there...


File photo of Morton's Hong Kong

Before going to Morton's that night, I'd actually googled some reviews of it.

Some people found it rather dark -- "the darkest restaurant in Hong Kong" wrote someone online. I hadn't been in a while so I honestly couldn't remember how dark it was; but when I got there on Sunday night, I found the atmosphere pretty nice and not too dark.

Perfect lighting, actually, for a dinner for two; and the Christmas lights on the harbor gave everything in the restaurant a nice sheen as well.


Morton's in Hong Kong

As we'd gone to Morton's for the dry aged steak at my request, we did a no-holds-barred ordering of dinner.

Life's short, I said, and I've been hankering for a good steak since I had a very lean dry aged T-bone cut in Cape Town two weeks ago. It had been flavorful but not juicy enough.

We decided to share everything except the steak, as we actually ordered one each of the juicy rib-eyes. And if you've ever traveled with me, I'm sure you'll recognize the pattern of the ordering because I'm in a different place almost every week, but I'm pretty much a creature of habit anyway.

Morton's paraphernalia for steak lovers


We started with a dozen oysters, freshly shucked and served simply with vinaigrette. I love oysters and I have it at every opportunity. In South Africa, I ordered this every time I saw it on the menu.

Morton's famous crab cakes

Then we had crab cakes, which Morton's is famous for, and a Ceasar's salad and lobster bisque to share. These are all the traditional dishes that have become institutions at Morton's.

The crab cake was very meaty, the Ceasar's salad was done in the American style -- which is creamy rather than tangy -- and the lobster bisque had big chunks of lobster in it.


For the dry aged steaks, we both ordered a rib-eye, not realizing that each one was about 450 grams. Wow, was that big. But these steaks were very good.

Morton's takes its grilling of steaks very seriously, by the way. When we'd ordered our rib eyes, we were specifically asked how much percentage we wanted our steaks done. I like my rib eye just a little under medium -- meaning on the well-done side of rare. This is very hard to explain, especially in restaurants which are not specializing in steaks.

But at Morton's, there's no such wishy-washiness. Our waitress asked me: "What percentage would you like your steak done?"

Grilled asparagus for sides at Morton's


Talk about specific here. I could actually say a number instead of trying to describe what I wanted in terms of adjectives. I was almost tempted to say something like 67.5% just to see if they would actually do this, but I didn't want to be difficult.

So I said 65%. Whatever that meant. It just felt comfortable to me.

Well, I can tell you that 65% came back exactly as I wanted it, somewhere between rare and medium, but more on the medium side.

It was juicy and marbled, and extremely tender. There was a large steak knife on my placemat, but I certainly didn't need it.


When the manager came around in the course of greeting restaurant guests, I asked her: "How long did you age this beef?" The answer was three to four weeks. And all along I thought that Morton's had its own dry aging facility in Hong Kong.

It turns out that Morton's actually dry ages the beef in Chicago and then vaccum packs it and flies the beef to Hong Kong chilled and not frozen. Talk about a labor of love on their part, but this certainly ensures that you get dry aged beef steaks almost exactly like what you would have in Chicago or New York.

How nice that you don't have to fly to the States to get a proper dry aged US steak. The steaks come to you in Hong Kong.


This also explains the hefty price tag. Morton's isn't cheap and the restaurant in Hong Kong is more expensive than the one in Chicago or New York.

But if you want nothing but the best steaks in Hong Kong, or in this part of the world for that matter, this is certainly where you should go.

Some of the dessert selections at Morton's in Hong Kong

After the steaks, everything was like a post-highlight, even if I enjoyed the warm chocolate cake with ice cream very much. This is a classic steak house dessert and also one of my favorites, wherever I am.

The Peninsula Hong Kong ablaze with Christmas lights...

And then we walked back to the Peninsula Hotel next door, all ablaze in wondrous Christmas lights. Just another Sunday in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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