Morton's of Chicago erupts on the steak row of Long Island, marbled with show and packed tighter than its most leather-clad clientele.

The prime steakhouse, a mere bypass away from North Shore and St. Francis hospitals, is the newest and brassiest entry in the Northern Boulevard battlefield of beef.

From opening night, it has been a powerful magnet for carnivores and credit cards.

Morton's is a high-profile production where excess is extolled, from the entryway wine lockers with engraved plates advertising customers who've purchased a case off the list, to the show-and-tell dinner previews provided by well-drilled waiters. An out-of-sight cave wouldn't do; a discreet description, never.

Diners who have revelled in red meat at Morton's worldwide will be very comfortable here. The chain pursues uniformity with near fast-food vigilance.

Extracurriculars notwithstanding, the results can be very good.

Before settling in, you'll notice the busy bar, where those silly enough to visit without reservations may end up having their meals alongside others who are here more in the spirit of schmooze and romance.

LeRoy Neiman is the artist of choice. Bottles of wine are part of the overall decor. Likewise, the pewter pig table lamps, which you may purchase along with steak knives and gift certificates.

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Once you're seated, a defining Morton's ritual begins. The waiter pushes a rolling cart of shrink-wrapped raw meat and fish, unencumbered fresh vegetables, and a live, in-motion lobster to your table. He picks up each item and, straight-faced, describes its future.

This makes you a fully informed partner in the Morton's experience. Learn the difference between sirloin and porterhouse; and, of course, a tomato and a stalk of broccoli. The lobster is understandably irritated and embarrassed by the whole thing.

Or the fellow may know that the lobster bisque here is the high-octane, creamy variety, floating the meat of a claw but boasting little shellfish flavor.

Instead, have the excellent, generous jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail, with a mustard-mayo sauce. The quartet in the shrimp cocktail is all right, preferable to the tepid shrimp Alexander, sauced beurre blanc.

Broiled sea scallops taste rubberized, rimmed with undercooked bacon and accompanied by mild apricot chutney. The bluepoint oysters and the smoked Pacific salmon are less complicated, more satisfactory selections.

Getting to the main event, Morton's sends out a superb sirloin steak, fibrous and mineral-sweet. The double filet mignon, high and handsome, benefits from bearnaise sauce. The ribeye also stands out, with or without the Cajun spicing.

But the porterhouse blandly disappoints. And the Sicilian veal chop must have made a too-quick turn to Milan. Barely crisp breading, very underdone meat: a dish in a hurry. Nobody asked about the temperature, anyway. The rib lamb chops, however, are juicy and first-rate.

Rivaling the best courses is the broiled center-cut swordfish steak, perfectly crosshatched and moist, bearnaise sauce on the side. The farm-raised salmon is worth sampling. And the lobster, in the 3.5-pound plus category, meets its destiny in glory: a superior, baked beauty.

The burnished disc of hash brown potatoes leads the spuds, followed by respectable mashed, burly baked and lukewarm Lyonnaise. The waiter brandishes canisters of butter, bacon and sour cream, tempting those who figure at least one cardiologist is on-site. Sauteed mushrooms, wild or tame, are routine; steamed asparagus, molto al dente; sauteed onions, an improvement.

Skip the leather-lidded souffles, whether milky chocolate or dry Grand Marnier; the unevenly cooked upside-down apple pie; and the Godiva hot chocolate cake, a molten-center number that tastes as if it encased a candy bar. Creamy cheesecake and chocolate velvet cake are the essential sweets.

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But, by then, even the most disciplined will be ready to explode.

-- Peter M. Gianotti