As I mentioned a few days ago, the Hubs and I ended up at Morrell WIne Bar and Cafe last Saturday for a pre-theater dinner. There is a dearth of good restaurants in this area, especially as we didn’t have the time to go over to Hell’s Kitchen and going to, say, La Grenouille or Le Bernardin was not really in our budget. Unfortunately, Morrell’s proved to be just another mediocre restaurant in the theater discrict.
We sat outside, where I suprised to find the chipped metal tables not covered with table cloths. Sure, it is a semi-casual restaurant, but with pastas all above $20 and entrees going higher, I would think especially tables in this sort of poor shape would be covered. This caused a bit of concern about the quality of the experience we were going to have here, but I stuck it out as we really did not have the time to go looking for someplace else.
We decided on our selections, and had plenty of time to peruse the impressive wine list during our lengthy wait for the waiter to return to take our order. Another long wait ensued before our wine came. It was The Red Brute [sic] sparkling Shiraz by Bleasdale Vineyards, South Australia. I was amused that the waiter described the wine as he poured it (something along the lines of “bubbly and refreshing”), rather than when we ordered it, but perhaps I was become jaded toward him after two over-long waits. The wine, though called a “brute,” was sweeter than a dry Lambrusco, but still rich and enjoyable.
I was heartened by the arrival of the onion tart, which wasn’t the most attractive thing I had seen, but was tasty enough, with a good balance of caramelized onions, gruyÃ¨re, and puff pastry. It was supposed to be served with crÃ¨me fraÃ®che, but came it a very watery milky tasting liquid instead. Still, it didn’t harm the dish. The tart was garnished with some oven-roasted tomatoes, which I thought was an unusual accompaniment, but were very flavorful in their own right.
The tomatoes and dressing of the heirloom tomato salad were tasty enough, but as you can see if you look at the left side of the plate in the picture, the lettuce wasn’t very fresh. Mushy lettuce is pretty inexcusable in any restaurant, but especially at this price point.
The mushroom risotto was a huge portion. I am not sure that is a good thing, but it is the only non-negative thing I can say of it. It was too liquidy, not chewy the way true risotto should be (and I suspect this was not made using a true risotto technique), was topped with cheap, pre-shredded parmesan, and worst of all tasted of salt and not the promised truffle oil, or even, indeed, of mushrooms.
The scallops (both sea and bay types) were tasty enough, pan-seared perfectly, and presented in what would have been an elegant arrangement if not for the sloppy bed of cauliflower and spinach. Unfortunately the sauce suffered from the over-salting which apparently plagues this place and kept the dish from being a standout.
We skipped on dessert as Broadway beckoned, but I am not sure I would hazard a return visit to sample their sweet selections. This restaurant had mostly decent reviews on several websites, so I was disappointed and discouraged by our experience at Morrell’s Wine Bar. If anyone knows of good and reasonably priced dinner options in the theater district, please do let us know.