Dining - A Char Is Born
The Morton brothers could have opened a decent steakhouse with their eyes shut. With MB Steak, they outdid their own legacy.
The steakhouse has long been a staple of the Las Vegas resort, yet many of them feel like a nod to necessity rather than a restaurant someone was passionate about creating. The Morton family has been running steakhouses from the decade of disco to the present era of bottle service, evolving the style with the times. So when brothers Michael and David Morton put MB Steak together at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, it seemed like unbeatable odds on an easy play. Instead, the pair took it as a challenge to raise their standards.
“David and I went methodically, restaurant to restaurant, hotel to hotel — not only here, but around the United States: Chicago, New York, Miami, San Francisco,” Michael Morton told me. Even more than besting local establishments, or even national ones, the goal was to outdo their own past dining achievements. The brothers have each owned numerous restaurants and bars around the country, but this is the first collaborative project since their youthful days busing tables and washing dishes at their father’s place.
And the pair can raise a glass to success: With a unique-yet-understated style and a menu that manages to be simple and decadent at the same time, MB Steak is poised to take its place among the mainstay Vegas steakhouses — somewhere between the classic, on-point service of the Golden Steer, the edgy experimentalism of Bazaar Meat, and the red-meat worship of Carnevino.
The decor at MB Steak is a subtly modern retake on traditional steakhouse design. The furniture runs to plush, curvaceous deco pieces, yet the walls are charred wood, and a spiky chandelier dominates the downstairs dining room — imagine the sets for Grand Hotel merged with those for Game of Thrones. Upstairs, high ceilings, open(able) windows and a “living wall” of leaves and blossoms create an airy, open feel. The idea behind the rooms’ different vibes and sizes is versatility, with the aim of making MB Steak suitable for everything from business meetings to bachelorette parties.
Under the guidance of Chef Patrick Munster (a veteran of SW Steakhouse at the Wynn), all the steakhouse standards are present, but with quality and quantity that typify fine dining a la Vegas. The crab cake appetizer contains thumb-sized chunks of crabmeat, rather than the usual shreds, played up with just enough spice to wake your palate to appreciative life. The ahi appetizer is simply rendered, with just a few twirls of taro/lotus root: The star here is the cubes of ruby-red tuna, wet and gleaming like watermelon, with a rich, velvety texture.
Steaks come from the Midwest and maintain the Morton family standard. The ribeye is richly marbled; ordered with an optional garlic-Parmesan crust, it’s cooked to a pink-red inside while maintaining a solid sear on the outside, and keeping a bit of crisp to the crust, which complements rather than overwhelms the meat. Bone-in fillet isn’t a usual cut, but ideal for those who like their steaks on the petite side, yet still want the marbling and flavor that only comes from being cooked near the bone. Sides also get something extra. Creamed corn is liberally studded with chunks of crab and dabs of chipotle pepper; creamed spinach is finished with truffle Gouda and poached egg.
The expansive beverage menu features an array of cocktails that employ garden-fresh ingredients, as in the strawberry-sage Beet Writer, or the Spicy Cucumber Margarita, where the coolness of the cuke cuts habanero- and jalapeño-infused Tequila. A somewhat more, um, festive cocktail option is the Magic Mike, a sweet raspberry vodka-and-rosé concoction named for the Hard Rock show — and which makes a Cosmopolitan seem like a straight Scotch. Still, it’s the very (pink) thing for a girls’-night-out group before checking out the show, along with a few wedge salads and American Caviar Sliders (think blinis and caviar, except you use the blinis sandwich-style). Along with the pre-show crowd, MB always has its big round table of red-meat businessmen, as well as big-date couples in short dresses and button-down shirts tucking into a layered carrot cake built for two.
Yet, despite the obligatory crowds of tourists and conventioneers, the Morton brothers stress that MB Steak is “a locals’ place,” and are pleased to see regulars who come back for their steak fix. The Mortons are quick to remind that locals heading to the Hard Rock don’t have to fight Strip traffic, or deal with that new scourge known as parking fees. And even if that weren’t the case, I’d say this welcome new classic is still worth the trip.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
HOURS Mon-Sun, 5-11p