Casino’s Michael Jordan’s Steak House a slam dunk

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Why: The new Ilani Casino Resort houses a fair selection of dining options. One of those is the Michael Jordan’s Steak House, know for its “steakmanship.” At MJ’s, the goal is to elevate the classic steakhouse experience to the Michael Jordan level. The steak selection is made up of hand-selected steaks from grass-fed to 45-day, dry-aged USDA Prime. In addition, the bar includes a top-shelf selection to accompany the restaurant’s finer food choices.

What I tried: To start, my dining companion and I tried the roasted beets with goat cheese and pistachios. I had the 10-ounce filet mignon, and my dining companion had the 16-ounce MJ’s Delmonico from the steak selections. We also tried the hand-cut fries cooked in beef fat and served with ketchup and green onion ranch dip. For dessert, we had the 23-layer chocolate cake.

The roasted beets (one of my favorite foods) were served cubed on a chilled plate (kudos). Both yellow and red beets were piled into an easily shared serving size and topped with crushed pistachios and a variety of green sprouts. Alongside, a smear of goat cheese with a drizzle of pesto was provided to dredge the beets through before eating. I always appreciate a restaurant that understands the delicious pairing of beets and goat cheese.

I thought it was odd that there was not a baked potato on the menu. There were mashed, fried and fingerling potatoes, but no baked potato. I asked the waitress why this was the case, but she admitted it was odd to her, as well. All doubt of why this was the case was completely eliminated when our steaks arrived. My filet mignon was topped with a generous pat of béarnaise butter atop and garnished two sprigs of fresh greens and my dining companion’s Delmonico came topped with fresh chives and enoki mushrooms with a tub of ginger-balsamic jus for dipping. We both ordered our steaks medium, and both steaks were prepared just right. The 16-ounce Delmonico had been expertly seared. Underneath the crispy, flavorful exterior, the meat was tender and succulent. My steak remained true to its one dimensional flavor reputation, which I love, and it was tender and wonderfully juicy.

The fries arrived piping hot, but we only tasted them. The steaks were so good neither of us wanted to fill up on roots and waste a single bite of the main attraction. The fries were crispy and golden, and the green onion ranch dip was an appetizing departure from standard ranch.

The 23 layer chocolate cake is a must, even if you only remotely enjoy chocolate. The multilayered dessert is not overly sweet, making it easy to eat and a perfect ending to a memorable steakhouse experience.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The warm colossal crab cake with Meyer lemon aioli sounded like a delicious way to start off a meal. Steak tartare with pickled onion, mustard créme fraîche and Kennebac potato chip is on the cold starter menu. Lobster bisque and caramelized onion soup are available on the dinner menu and a Caesar, wedge and chopped vegetable salad are among the salad options. A New York strip, grass-fed ribeye and a porterhouse are included in the steak choices with blue cheese crust, Dungeness crab, asparagus and tarragon butter, and butter-poached lobster for add-on options. Entrees include marinated lamb chops, honey-glazed salmon, seared sea scallops, roasted chicken, a pork chop and pan roasted halibut. Tasty sounding sides range from macaroni and cheese and potato options to asparagus, spinach, brussels sprouts, corn and mushrooms options.

Lunch menu selections add a few sandwiches and a slightly pared down version of the dinner menu.

Desserts include a Nutella brûlée, apple spice cake, ice creams and sorbets and a peanut butter pie.

Atmosphere: The decor keeps with the Northwest-inspired vibe you feel throughout the casino. The restaurant is divided into two main dining rooms. The front room shows off a ceiling feature that lends a bit of glamour above the classic, circulos-patterned tiled floor with muted colors complimentary to the dark wood tones used on the walls, tables and chairs. The back room, on the other hand, has a handsome wood floor. Both rooms feature upholstered booths and prints of the basketball legend tastefully decorate the walls. The lighting is subtle but adequate. 

Other observations: I found the wait staff professional and informative about menu items. I thought the decor hit the upscale mark while maintaining a comfortable vibe. As for the food, in my opinion, the 20-minute drive north beats the same stop-and-go trip south for a meal that is comparable to the better steakhouses in Portland. MJ’s has a 24-person private dining area which may be reserved. Hopefully, this restaurant will adhere to its present level of excellence and provide a consistent experience for diners.

Cost: Starters at lunch cost $9 to $21. Sandwiches are $14 to $23. Salads are $12 to $23. Entrees are $21 to $31. Steaks range from $36 to $54. Sides are $8 to $13. Dinner starters top out at $23 for hot ones and $69 for cold (chilled shellfish platter). Soups and salads range from $12 to $17. Steaks range from $44 to $99 with steak add-ons from $5 to $21. Entrees cost $29 to $46. Sides are $9 to $15. Desserts are $9 to $14.