My wife and I decided to head into Manhattan from our Park Slope digs on Saturday to look at some furniture, so I got on Open Table and scouted the Chelsea neighborhood where we'd be shopping. We came up with Moran's, on 10th Avenue and 19th Street, which we've passed dozens of times, and that's where we made the reservation.
We arrived early, around 6, and the place was already busy. They gave us a very nice table, with a view of the fireplace. The look and feel of the place knocked us out: an old-time New York joint with Tiffany-style hanging lamps, plenty of room between tables, a really inviting ambience.
When we settled in, our waitress, Magda, brought the bread (nothing outstanding but good basic bread), a bottle of Pellegrino and a Chalk Hill Chardonnay, along with an ice bucket. We thought we were in restaurant heaven.
We felt that way right up until our main courses arrived...
We started with a dozen blue points, which were fresh, plump and juicy. I asked for some horse radish and they brought a jar of what I think was pickled horse radish, gray and watery, with no bite at all. That was the first disappointment, no big deal at the time, but definitely an indicator of things to come.
Maureen had the baby lamb chops, an appetizer, for her main course, and I thought, "What the hey..." and ordered the 24 oz. Porterhouse, which the menu states is dry-aged. Sounded good. We also ordered the creamed spinach.
All three orders were mistakes. The baby lamb chops were drenched in grease. They looked like they might have been pretty good if they weren't so grease-laden, but there they were, swimming in a puddle of grease.
The creamed spinach was the worst I've ever seen, watery and not at all inviting. I was surprised the kitchen would allow something like it to go to table. We like the creamed spinach at Luger's, we think the creamed spinach at Del Frisco's is the very best on earth, and we also like the creamed spinach at Sparks. We couldn't even bring ourselves to try this version, it was so visually unappealing.
My steak was edible, but that's all. It was about an inch thick, which might sound good, but that's not really thick enough to get a char and remain at least medium on the inside. I had ordered it charred and medium rare, and it was pink on the inside but not very charred. There were no juices at all from the steak; it was that dry. Had I been served the same steak in a diner I would've thought I was getting a good deal, but that's not how I felt at Moran's.
Dessert was definitely better. They came around with a sampler, which consisted of six or seven types of small round cakes (Black Forest, white chocolate and cherry, etc.). We each had one and thought they were good.
I will say they came around several times to ask how the meal was and each time I told them it was fine. I did this because it seemed to me that everyone else was having a fine old time and I didn't want to: (a) be thought of as trying to weasel out of the bill or get comped; or (b) get into a discussion of what was wrong with the meal and have them try to fix it (ordering something different, perhaps being disappointed a second time, etc.)
To me the problem was that they order sub-prime meats, and I didn't see how that could be corrected. I felt that it was one of those situations where had I said what I really thought it would have just ruined what was a perfectly nice evening, the food excepted.
I think there is a large population of diners who will chow down on anything put in front of them (unless it's seriously bad, like rancid or off), and not care a whit as long as they are out and enjoying themselves, and I think it is this crowd that Moran's caters to. Certainly there was no shortage of diners there on Saturday, from 6 PM when we arrived through about 8:30 PM when we left. I just cannot believe that any of them were there specifically to get the steak or lamb.
So we had the desserts and some cappucino, and paid the bill, left a very nice tip (we liked Magda), and went home.
I'd even consider going back because I like the ambience so much, but I surely wouldn't have any of their meats. A drink at the very handsome bar, perhaps a nibble of something very basic, and then dinner somewhere else...
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