A lot of people have forgotten this, but before the greatest basketball player in the world wore number 23, there was another 23.
Jordan may not have the stats to back up a legitimate claim to being a better basketball player than LeBron James—Jordan currently has more rings than LeBron, and nearly as many rings as legends like Tom Heinsohn, Satch Sanders and Jim Loscutoff—but there's no question he's the greatest sports merchandiser ever, with an iconic line of sneakers and streetwear. For anyone who loves his shoes, or appreciates this man's accomplishments alongside Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, it's well worth making the 35-minute drive from Portland to Ridgefield, where his steakhouse anchors the food offerings at this shiny-new 368,000-square-foot complex, which also includes i.talia pizza kiosk and Smashburger.
What's Michael Jordan's Steakhouse like? Well, if you've ever been to a celebrity-branded steakhouse, it's like that. Think pleasantly decadent if also a little too spendy and Parade of Homes-y.
Michael Jordan's Steakhouse practices what it calls "steaksmanship" which: "[S]mells like steak. Sizzles like steak. It's even as prime as steak."
In other words, like steak—but also "much more than steak."
The steaksmanship motif starts with the decor, as the restaurant is adorned with photographs memorializing a career that's undeniably respectable, even next to that of Bill Russell or LeBron James. The servers wear black polo shirts emblazoned with a small Jumpman logo. Besides the photos, the walls bear massive cases of wine, much of it available by the glass including a $10 budget prosecco, a $12 Brooks Rosé and an $18 Adelsheim Pinot, none listed by vintage. The drink list is tucked into a plastic sheet protector and also includes an $8 pint of Mac & Jack's African Amber, a $6 bottle of "Bud Light Pale Lager" and a very stiff rye Manhattan with rhubarb bitters for $12.
Befitting the casino setting—some might argue it's a little too on-the-nose given Jordan's well-documented gambling problem, long rumored to have led to a shadow suspension that pushed him out of the league for the year he played minor league baseball—there's a touch of decadence to pretty much everything on the menu. The garlic bread is served with a blue cheese fondue for $9, and the bacon comes "double-smoked."
We enjoyed the tuna crudo ($20), which would have benefited from being served dressed evenly in the unappetizing smear of brown soy-garlic sauce beside it, and an excellent Caesar salad ($12) pleasantly larded with salty Parmesan.
Because of travel time and budget—I-5 has been clogged since the casino opened, and we dropped $250 for one meal at MJ—we were only able to visit MJ once, instead of our typical threepeat of review visits. (We sent a different reporter to a complementary media preview.)
Sadly, on this visit the kitchen was out of our preferred cut, a 24-ounce, wet-aged rib-eye ($55). We instead opted for the "MJ's Delmonico" ($54), a 16-ounce boneless rib-eye that was dry-aged for 45 days. It was, as advertised, well-marbled prime beef cooked a perfect medium—everything you ask for, plus an aggressive jus made with ginger and balsamic, which was poured tableside.
We skipped the "add-ons," which include a $5 blue cheese crust and a $21 butter-poached lobster tail, but added sides of richly milky macaroni and cheese topped with umami-dense cheese crumbles ($11), and unfortunately soggy and overcooked roasted Brussels sprouts ($9).
Our other entree, a small piece of honey-glazed salmon ($38) was upstaged by the included side, a super-buttery creamed corn peppered with bacon bits.
For dessert, we passed up the 23-layer chocolate cake made in honor of the number worn by the greatest basketball player in history and also Michael Jordan, and instead opted for peanut butter pie and a Nutella brulée. The pie was the standout, a towering stack of rich, nutty nougat the size of a soda can standing atop a thin chocolate crust and topped with a froof of whipped cream and tiny chocolate globules.
It was an impressive confection—aggressive, robust and yet with impressive fine-touch details. Truly, it was the LeBron James of desserts.
GO: Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, inside ilani casino, 3400-3566 NW Pekin Ferry Road, Ridgefield, Wash., 360-727-2140, mjshilani.com. 11 am-1 am daily.