morton's dining

We've been on a steakhouse kick recently, and the latest on the list was Morton's in Clayton. From its dim lights and comfy booths to the open kitchen area and bow-tied staff members to the ubiquitous Mack the Knife on the sound system, Morton's definitely provided the right steakhouse vibe.

While perusing the menu, we sipped on a glass of Laphroiag 10-year Scotch ($12) and a Lean And Green ($14) from the 'Spa-Tini' cocktails. This drink was made with Soju, a Korean spirit similar in many ways to vodka, agave nectar, lime juice, soda water and mint. It was tasty enough--and apparently less than 200 calories.

This meal was another case where the starters were the stars of the show, and the 'mains' were a bit of a let-down. The Proscuttio-Wrapped Mozzarella appetizer ($14) was served on a bed of watercress with a sweet and tangy balsamic glaze. A little red onion contrasted nicely with the salty prosciutto. The Lobster Bisque ($15) was a creamy traditional take on this classic. It had just a touch of heat on the finish, and it actually paired well with the smoky Laphroiag.

We ordered the Morton's Salad ($11), which supposedly featured anchovies, but we found just two of these salty favorites buried deep in lettuce and blue cheese. Entree-wise, we decided on some surf specials with the Chilled Prime Ocean Platter ($24), a collection of Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp cocktail, jumbo lump crab meat, oysters on the half-shell and Alaskan King Crab legs. It sounded filling on paper; but in actuality, what we got was one crab leg, one oyster, one shrimp, a dollop of lobster and a tiny condiment cup of crab meat, all served on some crushed ice. The Filet Mixed Grill ($49) consisted of a 6-ounce filet mignon, along with three grilled shrimp and two bacon-wrapped grilled scallops. Temperature-wise, the steak was a satisfactory medium rare, but there was no seasoning to speak of--some salt and pepper would've gone a long way. We initially eschewed the offer of bernaise or other sauce since we like to enjoy fine cuts without heavy accompaniment; but in this case, some sort of topping would've been a welcome addition. While the shrimp were just fine, the scallops were rubbery and couldn't be saved, not even by the power of bacon. For our side, we ordered the Au Gratin Potatoes ($11), which were warm and plenty cheesy.

The Upside Down Apple Pie ($15) offered a bit of redemption at the end of the meal. It was a tasty version of this comforting classic, just inverted on the plate.

Service was adequate, and as noted above, the atmosphere at Morton's was comfortable and classic. But when the bill is upwards of $200, the food needs to be a lot more consistent.

Morton's The Steakhouse, 7822 Bonhomme Ave., 725-4008,

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