By Lynn Lieu
Amid the sand and heat, in the middle of the desert, La Quinta Resort offers an oasis. Built for celebrity and transformed for golf, the resort welcomes anyone looking for a retreat from everyday life. Located at the entrance of the resort is Morgan’s in the Desert, a fine dining experience customizable to your taste.
Morgan’s is the kind of place worth driving to the desert for. The hacienda-inspired dining room takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the 9 to 5. The dimly lit room is perfect for an intimate date. With curtains separating small tables, couples can enjoy a cozy meal in a semi-private setting. Morgan’s is also great for larger parties. With a large table in the corner, the restaurant can serve large parties while not disturbing smaller groups or couples. Along with the resort atmosphere, Morgan’s service is quick and friendly. Always attentive, the staff is also very knowledgeable about food and wine pairings.
In par with traditional fine dining, the restaurant offers a list of pre-dinner cocktails, some classic, like a whiskey sour or the French 75, and some with a twist, like the Agave Gingerita, a ginger twist on margaritas served on the rocks.
For starters, Morgan’s offers cool and warm small plates. The Ahi Tuna Tartare is a favorite at the restaurant. The ahi tuna is served with tangerines, Maui onions, Niçoise olives and comes with an endive salad. The plate is light and refreshing on a hot night. The lightness of the ahi makes for a great appetizer that’s not fishy at all. If you’re looking for something on the warm side, the Grilled Baja Shrimp is an excellent choice. Three large prawns are grilled and laid over roasted sweet peppers, fennel and basil and served with basil and lemon oil. The natural saltiness of the shrimp is balanced by the sweetness of the peppers, and the basil and lemon oil add the perfect light flavor to the dish.
While the starters are delicious enough to be meals, the entrees are even more fulfilling. The large plates can be ordered as recommended by the chef or mixed and matched to your liking. You have a choice of different steaks, seafood, game birds and other meats to mix with your choice of sides of hand-cut pastas, risotto and vegetables. Steaks are served with an option of crusts: crispy parmesan, Maytag blue cheese and Nuske smoked bacon. It’s fine dining done the way you like it.
The chef-recommended Angus Short Ribs are served with roasted baby beets, sweet onions and other vegetables. The slow braised beef is so tender it melts with the touch of your fork, no knives needed. And if you have leftovers, the ribs go well with garlic rolls, also served at Morgan’s, for a sandwich. Another recommended dish is the Crusted Colorado Lamb. The rack of lamb is crusted with pistachio and served over roasted sweet peppers, baby artichokes and fennel. Unlike most restaurants that use New Zealand lamb, Morgan’s opts for Colorado lamb, which is tender and juicy.
To top the night off, Morgan’s has a list of classic dessert cocktails, coffees and dessert. The traditional crème brûlée is creamy and the caramelized crust is done just right, crispy without any burnt taste. Morgan’s cheesecake is an amaretto and mascarpone cake with a toasted cracker crust and topped with toffee crunches on a bed of caramel and chocolate syrup. The cheese cake is creamy and satisfying to any sweet tooth.
Like a retreat, Morgan’s leaves you happy, full and refreshed.
Morgan’s in the Desert at La Quinta Resort & Club, 49-499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta, (760) 564-7600; www.morgansinthedesert.com. Dinner 5:30PM-10PM nightly, Bar 5:30PM-11PM. AE, D, MC, V.