Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Restaurant Update: Get out your wallets, Phoenix. Morton's is coming to town.

Morton's and Ruth's Chris are the two major contenders in the high-end steak-house-chain wars, battling it out in dozens of cities all across America. And now they're about to duke it out a couple of blocks from each other along Camelback Road.

Like Ruth's Chris, Morton's features hulking slabs of prime beef. They don't come cheap. The porterhouse, double filet mignon and New York strip sirloin run about $30, and the rib eye is $24. And that's strictly a la carte. Side dishes like lyonnaise potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and asparagus covered with hollandaise will each add another $4 to $7 to the bill. Appetizers go for eight to ten bucks, and desserts will cost another five.

Is there room in the Valley for two expensive steak houses? With branches in 31 cities, Morton's didn't get to be a big-time steak player by misreading the market. How does it compare with Ruth's Chris? That's a review in which my friends are already lining up to accompany me.

Morton's is scheduled to open in midMarch at 2501 East Camelback, in theEsplanade by the Ritz-Carlton. Call 955-9577.

Meanwhile, Vincent Guerithault says he has introduced a new menu at his restaurant. But after I compared it to a 1994 menu, it doesn't look all that different to me.

Many of the appetizer favorites are still there: crab cakes, seared ahi tuna, duck tamale, grilled scallops, smoked-salmon quesadilla. He's added three kinds of tamales--chicken, shrimp and ratatouille--as well as two taco towers--goat cheese and pork. The most intriguing starter I'm unfamiliar with: tequila-cured salmon with blue-corn pancakes.

The main dishes have been tweaked, but otherwise are virtually unchanged. For example, veal loin now comes in a rosemary sauce instead of a mustard-seed sauce; grilled lobster is paired with habanero pasta, not corn and wild rice risotto; duck confit is accompanied by sweet potato polenta, not Anasazi beans; salmon is baked, not grilled; and beef tenderloin is now moistened with a port wine sauce, not a green chile sauce. The rack of lamb, veal sweetbreads and veal chop haven't been touched. The only addition I can spot is the Grilled Wild Boar Loin.

Usually, a new menu means new prices. But Vincent has pretty well held the line. Appetizers still come in at $8 to $10, while entrees continue to hover around $20.

What's Cooking: If you prefer to whip up your own gourmet victuals, you might get a few tips from the chefs who'll be giving classes at Les Gourmettes Cooking School during the next few months. Among the locals are Donna Nordin (Cafe Terra Cotta), Eddie Matney (Eddie's Grill), Janos Wilder (Janos, in Tucson) and Mark Tarbell (Tarbell's). Other chef celebs include Jacques Pepin and Marcel Desaulniers.

The sessions run for two and a half hours and cost between $40 and $85. For a schedule and info, call 2406767.--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,