Being disappointed by a new restaurant is never fun. Being let down by a chef you truly respect is even worse. And having the second location of a restaurant you really enjoy fail to live up to the original pretty much just blows. So I can assure you I take no pleasure in saying that the new MTO Café in Downtown Summerlin hasn’t come close to meeting my expectations.
Let me state for the record that I’m a huge fan of chef John Church. From the simple snacks he provided at Tivoli Village’s View wine bar to the incredibly innovative dishes he and Rick Moonen created at Rx Boiler Room, I’ve rarely been disappointed by any plate he’s offered me. And I really like the breakfast and lunch dishes he serves at Downtown’s original MTO Café. So the news that the second MTO would be open for dinner (in a shopping center that’s been sadly slow in opening decent dining spots) was music to my ears. Unfortunately, after two visits, I am not impressed.
The new MTO Café is a bit more casual than the original. You order from a counter rather than a waiter, although your food is delivered to your table in “quick casual” fashion. The vast majority of the menu is identical to the tasty breakfast and lunch available at the original. But, given the extended hours, there are a few additional savory entrées—my review is limited to those dishes.
The best of the new dishes I tried was the truffle meat loaf. Church and his staff use the truffle flavor subtly, and the medallions of meat loaf are very nicely seasoned. I also love the sweet ketchup glaze, which reminds me of the meat loaf Mom used to make. Unfortunately, this otherwise delicious meal is marred by the accompanying gnocchi, which may have been the gummiest bits of pasta I experienced in 2014.
Other menu lowlights include the alleged chicken potpie. Despite the title, this is not a pie; there’s no crust covering the broth and chicken. Instead, you’ll find a handful of crust nuggets—making it a simple order of chicken and dumplings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, other than a slight hint of rosemary, the mixture is almost completely devoid of flavor. I actually found myself dousing it with salt and pepper just to provide some taste.
A curried spaghetti squash was equally lacking in flavor. And a steak and eggs dish was no better—I hate to say it—than what you’d get at your neighborhood Denny’s.
As disappointed as I am with the food at the new MTO, I’ve been extremely impressed with the service. Despite the quick casual style, the staff is extraordinarily attentive. And I’d gladly return for such breakfast and lunch dishes as the chicken in waffles or the Fat Elvis (French toast, peanut butter, bacon, banana, strawberries and Nutella). Unfortunately, for now at least, dinner is not where MTO excels.