Marriott's Manhattan Steakhouse
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Manhattan...the "Big Apple"...New York...that famous skyline on the waterfront...bridges...skyscrapers...bright lights...train stations...and jazz...these images describe aspects of the city that never sleeps. Who would have ever guessed that some 10,000 miles away a part of this grand metropolis has been transplanted--one of the better cuts, a prime piece of this legendary city - a "New York style steak house!"
It's here...on Guam, in the place where a "Pacific Star" was born, now transformed by Marriott from what was once known as "Creations," shall henceforth be known throughout the land as the "Manhattan Steakhouse." Its legacy begins.
Dramatic build-up? Not really, but then again, my first impression was one of amazement at the remarkable physical transformation the Marriott has made of the facility where the elegant Creations Restaurant existed just a few months ago. Impressive dark wood paneling, polished pillars, plush, new carpeting, elaborate custom-made teak chairs with padded leather backs and seats, and dimmed candelabra chandeliers create a comfortable ambiance for intimate conversations. Black and white photo images of vintage New York, captured and framed, are strategically positioned on the walls, and appear as windows to the soul of this multi-faceted city.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the crisp white linen-draped tables, where crystal stemware awaits the meal's libation, along with polished flatware properly placed, ready for action. The focus of this restaurant is the top of the table, which is the stage for the evening's events. Each table has a candle lamp with a large rectangular base (resembling a small podium) with a burnished cast bronze shade, providing a soft area illumination. Soft jazz melodies play in the background, evoking memories of good times and special occasions. The stage is being set.
We were greeted by Manhattan Manager Joel Santa Cruz, who escorted us along with the hostess to our table, where we were handed two menus, one for cocktails and the other for dinner. Manhattan Steakhouse features a selection of premium wines by the glass, both whites and reds, including Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, Clos du Bois, and Beringer labels, as well as Champagne. There are five signature martinis: the Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, Skyscraper, Classic, and the New Yorker. Lisa, my visiting partner/companion from Japan opted for the "Cosmopolitan," which has "Absolut vodka, Cointreau, Lime Juice and a splash of Cranberry juice served chilled and straight up with a lime wedge." I had the "New Yorker," described as "A Metropolitan sized pour of Smirnoff Vodka accompanied by a hint of Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth served on the rocks or straight up" with three olives. All Martinis are $9.00, however, these are not ordinary martinis!
Setting a new precedent for martini service, Manhattan's martinis arrive on small hand-carved teak beverage stands, custom-created with round cutouts for both glass and cocktail shaker. The martini glass is an intriguingly designed hand-blown Italian import with an electric blue stem molded to a large clear fluted bowl. Our waiter, Cesar, played his role in this ceremony by shaking the iced blend and carefully pouring it into each glass. The frosted stainless cocktail shaker chills nearly two more servings after your first pouring. It's an impressive presentation.
Cesar then delivered a small teak plank carrying hot, just-baked sliced onion bread with a large pad of butter in a white, scallop-rimmed china tray. This hard-crusted, tasty bread is a special proprietary Marriott recipe, and is likely to become a favorite among diners.
Cesar's uniform consisted of a black long-sleeved shirt with the Manhattan signature logo (in white) on the the left breast and black slacks. The waitstaff wear bola ties that have a silver steer head clasp ornament. The dark uniforms contrast sharply with the white tablecloths and china, creating an orchestrated effect, which, as we'd later notice, would dramatically emphasize the food and wine colors.
Manhattan boasts a unique appetizer selection, consisting of the following items: Baked French Onion Soup ($5.00); Lobster Bisque ($9.50); Lump Crab Cakes ($6.50); Carpaccio ($8.00); Escargot ($9.00); Seared Sesame Crust Tuna ($7.00) and Gravlax ($7.50). In addition, the following three samplers are available: "Seafood Market" which is an array of Crab Cakes, Sesame Tuna, Gravlax and Prawns, selected for the table and priced by the number of diners (this item is served on yet another custom-made item, a teak Lazy Susan, with each appetizer served in its individual scallop-rimmed ceramic dish); the Spit Roasted Duck Sampler; and the Shrimp Trio Sampler.
We had the Lobster Bisque, which was "Finished with brandied cream & fresh herbs en croute," which means it was made with a baked, golden brown pastry shell. A crab claw protruded from the pastry dome garnished by a sprig of fresh dill. This was an awesome creation, with it's fabulous presentation surpassed by its taste, which was a rich, creamy, flavorful blend with chunks of fresh lobster. A sure winner!
We ordered the Gravlax, ("Cured fresh salmon with fresh dill weed"). A generous portion of salmon filled the plate and was garnished by endive and red cabbage, with a fresh tartar sauce-filled lemon half.
Our Spinach Salad ($6.50) arrived. It made a pretty picture, with the broad fresh green spinach leaves serving as a bed for sautéed mushrooms and bacon bits, with two tempura battered onion rings atop, and a ring of luscious red Roma tomato wedges. The Dijon mustard dressing gave it a special "zing." Other Salad dishes are Caesar Salad ($7.00); Manhattan House ($6.00), and Tomato, Onion and Mozzarella (marinated in Balsamic and olive oil, for $7.50).
As a final appetizer, we had the Spit Roasted Duck Sampler (for Two, at $15.00). This is another "must-see-to-believe" presentation, as this item is served on a long custom-carved teak stand with four cut-out slots nesting the scallop-rimmed ceramic trays. Each tray contains several pieces of roasted duck dipped in four sauces (peppercorns, a l'orange, apple currant, and cranberry & pecan). A fresh sprig of thyme garnished each duck sampler. A superb presentation, as well as a novel way to experience a variety of duck treatments. My glass of Sterling Pinot Noir was the perfect accompaniment to the rich fruity sauces.
Manhattan Steakhouse features certified Angus Beef, and has a stellar line-up of entrees, "From the Grill:" a 12 oz Filet Mignon ($32.00); Prime Rib (12 oz for $26.00, and Island Cut, bone in, for $28.00); Prime New York Steak, 16 oz, $33.00); Porterhouse, 24 oz, $34.00); Veal Chop, 12 oz, ($44.00); and Double Lamb Chop ($27.00).
"Signature Entrees" include: One if by Land, Two If by Sea (this is a grilled filet mignon accompanied by two jumbo garlic shrimp - a satisfying combination I'd eaten on an earlier visit. See if you can guess the origins of this entree's title!), ($34.00); Roasted Spring Chicken ($22.00); Long Island Duck ($27.00); Garlic Steak (a 12 oz filet seared and injected with roasted garlic - this is a unique taste sensation, each bite of this luscious, tender beef is a garlic lover's dream!) ($35.00); Five Peppercorn New York Steak, 16 oz, and crusted with red, pink, green, white, and black peppercorns, ($35.00); and Garlic Shrimp, ($25.00).
For seafood lovers, Manhattan offers a 12 oz Local Tuna Steak that is served blackened, panfried or charbroiled, ($26.00); a 12 oz Salmon that is served panfried, broiled, or steamed ($27.00); and Live Lobster, prepared steamed, broiled or thermidor, at Market Price.
This evening's dinner choices were the Local Tuna Steak that was charbroiled, and the New York Steak. The Tuna filet was a large, thick cut that filled the center of the round dinner plate, and was bathed in a garlic/herb butter sauce, garnished with a sprig of fresh dill atop two lemon wedges. The bright yellow butter sauce with accents of green created an appetizing contrast to the seared, fresh tuna steak that delivered juice-filled bites.
The steak presentation was another landmark "coup de force" for the Manhattan Steakhouse in its trail-blazing quest to define new dining standards. A large teak platter with twin chrome longhorn steer head handles, spanning nearly 18 inches, carried the round white serving plate showcasing a thick, perfectly-seared New York steak. One could not help but gasp in amazement at this powerful delivery. A Marriott herbed butter sauce blend dressed the top of this great steak with a garnish of fresh thyme, and my first slice revealed the sought after red, warm center - a perfect Medium Rare! Words can't describe that first bite! If you are beef lover, you'll understand.
Manhattan's parade of "firsts" continued with another visually-appealing presentation, which was a long teak stand (same as described for the duck sampler) that had four dishes containing sautéed mushrooms, garlic-mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and straw onions. These delicious side dishes are served with each entree. The light golden battered straw onions are "melt-in-your-mouth" tasty! All four sides are well-conceived companions for Manhattan's dinner service. Complements to the chef!
Wine connoisseurs will be delighted with the fine selection of premium wines available on the extensive wine list, which also serves as a taste guide that "sells" each bottle! The Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 97 is described as "Well balanced & crisp, possesses opulent aromas of wildflowers with light lemon citrus overtones" and is priced at $45.00. The Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 94 promised a wine experience that "features tangy rich blackberry, black cherry, plum, currant, vanilla, & mocha flavors, framed by rich tannins," and is available for $44.00. This particular bottle I shared on an earlier visit, and can attest to its gratifying fulfillment. Five champagnes are featured, including Domaine St. Michelle, Moet Chandon Brut Imperial, Perrier Jouet and Dom Perignon. A representative selection of French and Italian wines is available.
For those "Blue-blooded" celebrants, the "Manhattan Steakhouse Special Collection" consists of three Olympian wines: a Chateau Lafite Rothschild 95; a Chateau Margaux 95, and an Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon 94-95. Each of these bottles is served with special crystal stemware graced with spacious bowls for optimum wine breathing.
Manhattan Steakhouse turns back the clock and goes "retro" in the dessert category...would you believe they have "Baked Alaska?" Your dining experience won't be complete until you've ordered an espresso or cappuccino to accompany this beautifully-crafted mound of whipped meringue covering three types of ice cream atop a layer of cake, with a side of plump sliced strawberries. True to tradition, this dessert is brought to the table to be flamed with cognac, and you can watch in delight as the blue flames lick the sculpted meringue tips, darkening their golden brown to marshmallow-fired crispness. A penultimate taste-bud pampering, and well worth the $9.50 price tag!
Additional desserts are Chocolate, Chocolate Cake ($6.50); New York Cheese Cake ($6.50); New Orleans Raisin Bread Pudding (this is topped with sweetened rum butter and served with praline ice cream, for $6.00); Gateau Neopolitan ($6.50); and a selection of sorbet (the fresh mango was yummy) and ice cream ($5.00). Ports and dessert wines are available as a final touch.
As with every fine dining experience, dinner is a relaxing, orchestrated event, and time should only be measured in superlatives. While many diners have completed their culinary journey at this juncture, there is one last ritual for the connoisseur who prefers an aperitif, and Manhattan features a range of fine cognacs, champagnes, premium and single malt scotches, tequila, bourbon, and vodka, as well as the grand finale for a splendid evening, a fine cigar!
898 Cigar Lounge
So it's up from your table and off to a totally separated, spacious, enclosed chamber that is comfortably furnished. The main dining room is visible from this room through glass paneled doors. A large walk-in humidor is positioned near the entrance. Inside are shelves showcasing an assortment of fine cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jamaica, and the Philippines. A cigar menu is available, with the famous Mark Twain saying on the bottom, "If you can't smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go."
Since there's no smoking in Manhattan's dining room, this well-ventilated room is an ideal setting for relaxed conversations and intimate meetings where an elite selection of recorded quality jazz is performed.
Let yourself be pampered by the Manhattan Steakhouse experience...a special place bringing a new direction to your dining pleasure! Happy New Year!