Mort's Deli—it ain't chopped liver
Mort's Meat Platter ($14.99) deserves to be a modern legend, a fairy tale that will send carnivorous children to bed with visions of red meat dancing in their heads, or a cautionary fable that will scare little vegetarians into persistent insomnia. It is stupid big. Your stomach will contract in fear when you gaze at the vast expanse of flesh that sprawls across the plate. There is corned beef and brisket. There is a stack of sliced salami. There is—why not?—pastrami, and a baseball-sized lump of chopped liver. There's also enough bread for at least four reasonably sized sandwiches.
This monstrosity can be found at Mort's Delicatessen, a new arrival in Golden Valley. Mort's—which takes the trouble to import its bagels from H&H and its cheesecake from New York City's Carnegie Deli—means business.
A deli counter up front offers cuts of meat, Dr. Brown's sodas, sliced desserts, and various pickled items for those who want takeout; in-house diners get to sit in comfy booths and steel themselves for the carnal pleasures that await.
Freshly founded, Mort's lacks the patina of age and cheerful, acid-lined weariness that colors many of its East Coast brethren. But its heart certainly is in the right place. Meals at Mort's start with a plate of traditional deli pickles, perfect pickled beets, and pickled tomatoes that are a pleasant blend of sweet, sour, and mildly acidic flavors. A solid follow-up is a cup of the matzo ball soup ($3.50), a straight-down-the-middle rendition of the classic. It's a little light on schmaltz, and the matzo ball is of the dense-n-chewy variety, which may very well be exactly to your taste (few things are as polarizing in the world of American Judaic gastronomy as the "perfect matzo ball soup" question).
Mort's giant menu is a mix of hits and misses, but the former outnumber the latter. Corned beef is an interesting variant on the typical tender mass of little pieces familiar to deli fans; Mort's serves up big, long slices that are a little tougher and adorned with a blackened exterior that evokes BBQ more readily than rye bread. Different isn't bad, however; the stuff packs a lot of flavor and fat. The salami is awesome; it's shockingly pliable, mellow and mild with just a hint of spicy kick. The brisket tasted underpowered and a little washed out, but the equally mild pastrami had a buttery edge that made for good eating. Chopped liver seemed to err on the side of spinelessly underflavored, which may please those who want their creamy internal organs to be unassuming.
Fans of cardiac procedures should sample the restaurant's egg-dipped turkey club ($13.59), which is essentially a bunch of corned beef and turkey meat jammed between two slices of French toast. This is a hell of a sensuous sandwich. If you've got psychological issues that entangle the pleasure of naughty food with the shame of illicit sex, this is either the main thing to avoid or the best thing to order. Use your own judgment.
One final word of advice: End your meal with the gorgeously executed cheesecake ($5.29), which comes in iceberg-sized slices and is neither overly sweet nor disgustingly tacky and sticky. Just make sure to share it with a friend.
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