Dinner at Cut -- ehh...
This Saturday, the Missus and I (along with a favorite aunt and uncle) had the chance to try Cut (9500 Wilshire Blvd., at Rodeo, 310-276-8500, http://wolfgangpuck.com/rest/fine/cut/ ), Wolfgang's new steak place in the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The short version is that, for the most part, everything was okay, but it really didn't knock my socks off and I don't think I'll be in any rush to return.
Now the long version. Had a six o'clock reservation and were seated within ten minutes of arriving (on time). The space is, as others have remarked, very nice. Light, open, clean, and elegant. We were served bread sticks (which were okay), and one of my favorite items of the evening, a basket of little fresh cheese flavored popovers, hot from the oven. These were delicious; the best cheesy-poofs I've had, perhaps ever.
Our waiter, who was very funny and charming, came over and delivered menus and told us they didn't have the kurobuta pork chop (which the Missus, who doesn't eat beef, sort of had her heart set on). Then he disappeared for what seemed like an inordinately long time. I guess it gave us time to study the menu, but there were a couple of gaps like that in the service over the course of the evening, where we just seemed to sit there waiting for too long a time.
Anyway, while we're waiting to order, some other waiter comes by and shows off a cross section of several cuts of real live Japanese imported Kobe beef. I must be in the minority here, but I don't particularly like it at Arnie Morton's when they trot out the raw cuts of beef, and I didn't like it at Cut either. Plus, the Kobe beef looks more like fat marbled with beef than the other way around. Maybe it's great; we didn't try it, but it looks like it would be too rich/fatty for my taste. Fwiw, I think the waiter walking around the restaurant showing Kobe beef to people is just gimmicky; if it's really that good, you shouldn't have to show it to people; they should be able to taste it.
For appetizers, I ordered the heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese and white anchovies in what was, I think, a balsamic vinaigrette. The tomatoes were awesome, really at the peak of ripeness and cut nice and thick. Unfortunately, I thought anchovies didn't fit so well with the flavor of the tomatoes, and the vinaigrette was too sweet. This was okay, but the heirloom tomato salad at Lucques is unambiguously much better. The Missus ordered the butter lettuce with avocado and blue cheese salad. (From the number of these I saw leaving the kitchen, I would guess this is their most popular appetizer.) It was beautifully presented, and tasted pretty good. A nice salad, but again, nothing I'll remember a month from now.
For mains, I ordered their center of the menu dry aged 20 ounce bone-in prime New York strip, and the Missus got got the sea bass. (When she mentioned to the waiter that she had actually wanted the pork chop, he joked, "yeah, that's too bad, 'cause it's really good" which I thought, actually, was right on the edge of being in bad form.) We also ordered three sides for the table: french fries, creamed spinach, and caramelized sweet corn.
The steak was perfectly cooked, but was, frankly, just okay. It had a bit of gristle, and wasn't terribly hot when it was served. The flavor was good, but to tell the truth, I've had better steaks, for example, at Campanile, Mastro's, Josie, and even the Pacific Dining Car. In fact, for sheer deliciousness, a dry aged New York Strip from Harvey's Guss cooked over oak charcoal in my backyard unquestionably comes out ahead. The seabass was deboned at the table, and was nice, but again, nothing extraordinary.
As for the sides, the caramelized sweet corn was good, but very sweet. Still, it's a good idea, and was interesting. The creamed spinach was unremarkable, and, oddly, is served topped with a fried egg. The egg was a bit undercooked for my taste, which I really didn't like, but in the end it didn't matter so much, because the creamed spinach itself wasn't that great. Finally, the french fries were the biggest disappointment of the evening. I love (LOVE!) french fries, and I thought for sure Cut's rendition would be excellent. Wrong. Soggy, not crisp, not piping hot, and over-salted. Made me want to drag the responsible party out of the kitchen for a field trip to Josie, so they could see and taste what really good fries should be like.
After the plates were cleared, we got dessert menus, and had another of those odd lapses where we just sat there for an inordinately long time waiting for our order to be taken. Now that I think about it, both times that happened it was while we were waiting to order, so maybe our waiter just thought we were really slow readers. He was, other than this, an excellent waiter, and maybe this is just new restaurant bugs getting worked out.
The four of us shared a single dessert, on the waiter's recommendation, a black forest pudding cake with chocolate and bing cherry ice cream. Again, it was good, but not great. There are lots of better desserts out there, at the WaterGrill, Providence, and Josie, just to name a few. Coffee and tea were fine, and, for once, were served with dessert (as they should be).
Miscellaneous details: I had a glass of red wine with my dinner, and my uncle had a bar drink. Otherwise we drank sparkling water. Before the tip, the bill came to $350. Valet parking at the hotel is $10, with validation. Finally, a word about the scene at Cut. It seems to me that, at least for the moment, Cut is a place where movie stars, people who think they're movie stars, and people who want to be movie stars, go to have dinner. It has generally been my experience (and this was no exception) that this kind of scene doesn't co-exist very well with truly excellent food.
In sum, dinner at Cut was an expensive affair, where a couple of things were disappointing, but nothing was really bad or great. I think, for the money, there are better places to scratch your itch for high-end food.
Thanks for writing such an extensive review. I can't find, however, where you mention the mains of your 2 dining companions. I'm wondering how those were. I can see where an accumulation of factors threw off your night, and that's too bad. I liked the place. Had a 37 (?) day aged New York (without bone) which was probably the best New York I've ever eaten. Usually, when I have this cut there are pieces of fat, gristle, overly cooked parts or whatever remaining on the plate when I'm finished. In this instance, I ate the entire thing, fat and all. When it arrived, I looked at it and thought no way I'm eating all this. Was I wrong! Still, notwithstanding the floorshow, I'm kicking myself for not getting the kobe. I'd suggest you wait a few months and give the place another try. As a starter, I'd recommend the lobster "cocktail." Also, I'll admit I was with friends and we had some wine which seemed to enhance things. The main disappointment for me was the tempura onion rings which didn't impress but which sound superior to the fries. As an alternative to the fries, you might try the mashed potatoes which are pretty rich and tasty. Cheers!
re: mc michael
Aunt and uncle ordered the butter lettuce salad and the same steak I had, which is why I didn't comment separately on their dishes. Funny, they had a 35 day dry aged steak as a special, but I didn't order it because I think sometimes over aging gives meat an off flavor. If I return, I will try that.
Darn! Just when LA produces yet another steakhouse that initially receives unanimous cheers and a Virbila rave, a venerable Chowhound damns it with faint praise! I've been wanting to go to a great steakhouse for a while now and was just about set on Mastro's when jcwla panned it, Republic, Dakota and The Lodge never seemed to take off with this crowd, Ruth's Chris are too buttery (I *have* eaten at the one in Palm Desert, it was nothing extraordinary).
So, I still keep grilling them at home. But I want the whole thing -- the overpriced sides, the warm bread, the stiff martini, the massive dessert....
I heartily agree with the op's take on the revived practice of trotting cuts of beef around the restaurant on a platter for patrons to view. It's tawdry somehow...as a kid, a long awaited trip to a Jersey steakhouse called Ed Zaberer's featured waitresses ferrying platters of uncooked beef around the cavernous rooms. At the age of 7, I took it to be the height of class. Now it strikes me as presumptuous showboating.
This review hasn't convinced me to not try Cut for myself, which surprises me that chowish people would lay stock in a review, as food tastes are personal and subjective, why wouldn't you want to know if it's good for you?
I can appreciate your candid review of your experience.
I know that you mentioned that your steak wasn't "terribly hot;" in all fairness it is always best to let meat rest before it is served, to lock in the moisture and juices, sounds like something Chef Ari would do for his cuts of meat, sacrificing the heat factor.
and "unambigously" = unanimously?
And yes, trotting around the Kobe beef table to table is bit showy and almost insulting to foodies. But could you imagine the wonderment for the person who isn't so educated about the high end meat? You have to figure that they are doing for that guy, and you can't really hold it against them as if it is in poor taste. I don't think it would hinder my dining experience.
"Cut is a place where movie stars, people who think they're movie stars, and people who want to be movie stars, go to have dinner. It has generally been my experience (and this was no exception) that this kind of scene doesn't co-exist very well with truly excellent food."
Most would say the same about Spago, but obviously it has proved it's staying power.
Thanks showing the flipside of Cut's mostly glowing reviews.
Agree completely. Try it yourself, and let us know what you think. Could also be that we hit an off night, or that we ordered the wrong dishes, or just have different tastes from the folks who've loved it. (Usually, I like to eat somewhere at least two or three times before posting, but with Cut, that would be a fairly costly endeavor.) In my experience, there is no such thing as unanimous on this board; even the most beloved establishments (e.g., Langer's, Din Tai Fung, Josie, etc.) have their detractors. As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the many reasons this board is so good -- lots of voices, lots of ideas, lots of passion.
I agree that food tastes are often subjective (which is why I can't bear some CH threads that talks about the "proper" way of eating things, soy sauce on rice, for example.) But there are certain aspects of the going-out experience that's pretty objective too (in this case, the service gaps--)
That being said, appreciate your insightful commentary -- and yea, definitely no such thing as unanimous in CH ~ though there's definitely no holding back of opinions :)
i'll have to disagree on a few counts,
my main here the kobee short rib curry was amazingly good, really good stuff, the chocolate pudding cake was very good (but my mille feiulle was not good at all).
the foie gas mousse with date tamarind chutney was extremely good.
and those chees puffs were some of the best i have ever had, ever.
Great and very balanced review! The showing of the beef does sound gimmicky!! lol ---and MMMM... cheesy popover poofs, been a while since I had those.
Was the restaurant packed (wont be surprised due to LAT's positive review recently)? That may account for service lapse.
Anyways, I wasn't planning on going to Cut anytime soon due to its price -- but after reading this, it's knocked a few rungs down on my "ultra-special-occasion dining" list.