Creating a successful restaurant can be an arduous process, to say the least. Creating a restaurant with a scene seems impossible. It might appear that with all its casino flash, Las Vegas is loaded with restaurant hot spots where all the movers and shakers are regular patrons, but very few of those dynamic dining rooms actually offer side dishes of soul, real warmth and social culture to complement their superior service and magnificent cuisine.
Michael Morton has been a major player in Vegas hospitality long enough to crack the code. You get those good vibes when you visit La Cave at Wynn and Crush at MGM Grand, and now he has teamed with Chicago-based brother David for the first time on a new restaurant, the built-from-scratch MB Steak at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Their older brother, Peter, famously opened that game-changing off-Strip resort 22 years ago, and the family history contributes quite a bit to MB Steak’s ambiance; it feels like a brand new restaurant that has been here all along. It also feels like a series of discoveries: You enter through a narrow passageway into an amber-hued bar and lounge with speakeasy tones. A dramatically lit staircase beckons you upstairs, but you’re not ready for that yet. Instead, you’ll slide into the main dining room, which eschews the current trend of whites and brights for straight-up steakhouse dark and sexy, with charred wood walls and a massive chandelier of spiky swizzles.
This might sound strange, but I judge a steakhouse on its salads. If you’re dropping dressing on a pile of lettuce, you’re not making me want to stay all night and spend hundreds of dollars on meat and booze. MB Steak hits a salad home run with the heirloom tomato and burrata ($14), colorful and complemented with arugula pesto and aged balsamic, and the baby iceberg ($15), which has plenty of buttermilk blue cheese without using it as the dressing. Instead, there’s creamy, zingy green goddess pooled underneath, and it’s wonderful with the crisp, cool lettuce, pickled red onions and smoky bacon bits. There’s also a Caesar ($13) and a chopped salad ($22) with grilled shrimp.
Before you get to the meat, consider engaging with charred octopus ($19) with port wine-stewed tomatoes, seared foie gras ($24) with strawberries and brioche French toast, or chilled seafood options from oysters to poke. For sharing, there’s a 32-ounce double porterhouse ($68) or a dry-aged, chili-rubbed, 28-ounce tomahawk ribeye ($99). For single steaks, I’d recommend the bone-in filet mignon ($68) or the au poivre hanger steak ($42), but ballers might want the real Japanese A5 Wagyu strip ($120). Definitely get the MB signature steak and peppercorn sauces to go with whatever you choose.
The choice non-beef selection right now is pan-roasted Alaskan halibut ($41), topped with an olive relish with tender asparagus and a rich tomato broth. You probably don’t need reminding, but don’t forget the sides: gruyere-saturated potato gratin, roasted cauliflower with cipollini onions and bacon, and creamed corn with crab and roasted poblano peppers.
MB Steak opened in June, so it’s too new to have fully created and captured its own scene. But all the pieces are here. It has its own valet along Harmon, an essential service for locals. The wine list is interesting, and the cocktails are on point. And when you do make it upstairs—maybe for the new Sunday late-night Magic Hour industry party—you’ll discover a cool bar with a garden wall-skylight and unexpected Vegas views.
MB STEAK Hard Rock Hotel, 702-483-4888. Daily, 5-11 p.m.