I've never been to Chicago, but everything I've heard suggests that it has as many steakhouses as my native San Francisco has coffee shops. It didn't get called the City of Big Shoulders by accident -- they had to eat a lot of red meat to turn protein into that much muscle.
The problem for startup Chicago steakhouses is that the market is already saturated, so it can be hard for a brand new eatery to stand out. One way for a restaurant to get some press, though, is by bearing the name of a municipal (and global) icon. So it should come as little surprise that Michael Jordan's Steak House has gotten quite a bit of attention in only three weeks of existence. There was a huge kickoff event, and now, they've earned a review in the Chicago Tribune from critic Phil Vettel:
I'm old enough to remember the day the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan, and to remember that it was not a universally praised draft choice. The belief among some was that the Bulls already had guards; why did they need another?
In the same way, the arrival of Michael Jordan's in the InterContinental Chicago had a few people questioning the redundancy, wondering if Chicago would support yet another steakhouse. To which I will answer: No matter how many steakhouses a city might have, there will always be room for a great one.
And Michael Jordan's is going to be a great one. [...]
Generally, top steakhouses take top-quality meat, bring it to the correct temperature and otherwise leave it alone. But [chef James] O'Donnell is one of those rarities, a steakhouse chef who cooks.
For instance, the signature steak is the MJ prime Delmonico, a boneless rib eye that's dry-aged for 45 days (other steaks get a 28-day age, but 45 just happens to be the number Jordan wore as a baseball player). It's a marvelous piece of meat, but O'Donnell takes it a step better by saucing it with a ginger and balsamic-vinegar jus. The sharp vinegar and ginger flavors cut through the meat, but I'm less impressed with the sauce, which works perfectly, than I am with the boldness of using it.
While I have to question the intelligence of making any reference to Jordan's baseball career at a restaurant trying to be the best in its field, it's easy to praise a restaurant for mixing classic meat-cooking techniques with forward-thinking creativity. That approach sounds a lot like Jordan on the basketball court: fundamentally sound play with plenty of flair and style.
Vittel gives MJ's Steak House three stars, but it's clear that he thinks it's a high-upside establishment. If you're in Chicago, it sounds like it's worth checking out. I hear the Luc Longley Lamb Chops and Stacey King Crab are delicious.
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- Michael Jordan