Last night I went to Murray's steakhouse in Minneapolis. As was reported last week, Murray's was closed for several weeks this summer for remodeling and just reopened on September 7.
I went for dinner with an out-of-town guest who, like me, had dined at the "old" Murray's in the past. I was there most recently nearly a year ago. Our reservations were for 7 p.m.
As reported, the fabulous retro exterior sign is still there. When you walk in, what you notice right away is "light." The old Murray's had a dark, supper club ambience. The new Murray's has much more of a sense of space and light, even though there are no windows.
The bar has been opened up and refurbished. I never spent any time in the bar before, but the new version has a less cramped, more modern feel.
I arrived first, and was offered the option of being seated immediately, which I took. The dining room has been repainted a very light color -- ivory or light beige, I guess. The mirrors are still on the walls and the ceiling light fixtures look the same. There are old photos on the walls of famous visitors, but not in a cluttered way.
I was seated at a table for 4. There are still some booths in one part of the room, but most of the seating is tables. When I arrived, I'd say there were probably 8 other parties scattered around the room. There was a Twins baseball game that evening, and they have a Twins special on game nights, but by the time I arrived at about 6:50, I'm sure most of those fans (if there were any who had dined there) had already cleared out. The clientele looked similar to those who have been there in the past -- mixed groups of "friends," business associates, and a few couples. Not elderly, by any means, but not "young and hip," either.
The staff looks mostly new. I didn't see a lot of familiar faces among the servers. They now wear the fairly common "uniform" of dark slacks, white shirt, and dark vest.
The place isn't too "loud," although my companion had a little trouble hearing the waitress because of some ambient noise. But compared to many contemporary restaurants, it is pretty quiet. We were offered still, sparkling or tap water on arrival, and given the wine list. When I asked for the scotch list, the waitress brought it right away. It looks about the same as in the past -- a reasonable list of blends and single malts. They were out of my choice (Famous Grouse -- which is the only blend I like), but I had a Balvenie instead, which was fine. My companion had iced tea, which was refilled promptly throughout the meal, as were the water glasses.
As soon as you're seated, they bring you a small (soup cup sized) bowl of small garlic toasts. Bigger than croutons, but not much bigger. I was wondering whether that was all of the signature garlic toast we were going to get, but in fact, it wasn't. The waitress later brought us the usual bread basket with a couple of kinds of rolls and multiple slices of toast. It was just as rich and buttery and garlicky as it had been in the past -- which is good.
The dining menu has been reconfigured -- it's now a single sheet, double-sided. They've added some new things to the menu, but I really didn't study it at length. In addition to the steaks, they also have walleye, duck, etc., and some "seasonal" choices. But we went for the classic silver butterknife steak for two, which came with a choice of soup or Caesar salad and potato or vegetable. The vegetable of the day was green beans. The soup of the day was chicken-wild rice (a Minnesota classic).
I had the soup, and I must say that it was one of the best renditions of this I've had -- and I've had it at lots of restaurants in Minnesota. My companion had the salad, and he enjoyed it. But to get to the heart of the matter: the steak. It was cooked medium rare, as we'd ordered, and before the waitress carved it, she cut it through the middle so that we could confirm that it was cooked to our specifications. We both had baked potatoes (which come with butter and sour cream, with extra cost add-ons available) and they were huge and tasty. My guest also ordered a separate order of spaetzle. They had two varieties: chive, or "mac and cheese." He ordered the latter. The portion was gigantic. You could easily have shared it with four or five other people, and it was very rich. I had a small taste, and although it isn't really my thing, it was very good -- quintessential comfort food.
The steak was really fantastic
. Cooked exactly as we ordered, as I said, but beyond that, the quality of the beef itself was very high. I mention this because I had shared the silver butterknife steak with a guest last year, and it wasn't nearly as good then -- we both left a lot of it (which I took home, but never ate, because I hadn't really enjoyed it). This time, though, it was wonderful, and we ate up every bite, which is no small accomplishment, as the portion is generous. I know that people in the past have complained the Murray's steaks are too salty, and it is true that the default preparation is treated with seasoned salt. But the menu now specifies clearly that you can ask for "light" seasoning, or no seasoning, so you can control that, if you choose. We didn't do that, and found the standard seasoning to be fine, though a little salty for us. Next time I might go for the "light" option.
There's a separate dessert menu. I didn't read it closely because what I wanted was their wonderful red raspberry pie. (The waitress was urging us to try the strawberry shortcake. Another time.) Sometimes, in the past, when I've gone late in the evening, they've run out, but that wasn't the case this time. The pie is served cold. The raspberries are really good, just lightly cooked, in a fragile pastry crust that melts in your mouth, and topped with some whipped cream. Ambrosia.
While we were eating, my companion asked me whether they had changed the carpeting in the dining room. I assume so, but I honestly don't know. It used to be so dark in there, you couldn't really SEE the carpet. But it is nice, neutral background but with a geometric pattern, sort of Art Deco, carpet.
A dinner at Murray's isn't cheap -- between us, the bill was about $160, before tip. But considering the quality of the food, the excellent service, and the updated ambience, I think it was value for money and well worth it, and I told the guy at the front, as we were leaving (who I think is one of the current generation of the family, as I've seen him there before -- either that, or he's a returning manager) that we were delighted with the "new" Murray's.
I'd encourage you to pay a visit when you're in the Twin Cities.
<message edited by rumaki on Wed, 09/12/12 12:46 PM>