Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CUT - 12/08/2012

9500 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 276-8500

Whenever anyone asks for a steakhouse in LA, I always steer them towards Wolfgang Puck's CUT. Plenty of steakhouses that sell quality meat, but what sets CUT apart is everything else particularly the appetizers (no shrimp cocktail and Caesar's salad here) and to a lesser extent the sides and sauces. My last visit to CUT was back in 2009 before Japanese Wagyu was banned following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Japan. The ban was finally lifted in August of this year which meant another visit to CUT was called for.

When we made our reservation we asked the restaurant if they could accommodate a party of 10 and we were promised a table that could seat up to 12. However when we arrived we were crammed around a small round table that was designed to hold 6 (see stock photo from the hotel's website below) and told that the larger table was given to another party. I understand the desire to maximize the number of covers but the uncomfortable conditions proved to be a distraction throughout the entire meal. On top of that, when we mentioned our concerns to the staff their disdainful apathy and lack of any apology really rubbed me the wrong way.

Pepino's Revenge - Patron Silver Tequila, Japanese Cucumber, Fresh Basil, Lime Juice
Samurai Sword - Yamazaki 12 Year Whisky, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, Ginger
Aviation "Violette" - Tanqueray "10" Gin, Pages Crème de Violette, Maraschino Liqueur, Lemon Juice
CUT's cocktails wowed me during my wide-eyed halcyon days but time has stripped away some of the luster. Still the cocktails were enjoyable enough particularly the Pepino's Revenge which blended the cloying tropical agave notes with the zest of basil and cucumber.

Bread - Bread sticks, Gougères, Pumpernickel, Pretzel, Whole Grain Sourdough, Onion Foccacia
CUT's bread service ranges runs the gamut from mundane toasty bread sticks to the oily and fragrant onion foccacia. The gougères were always my favorite, though I found this batch a bit dry.

Charred Venetian Octopus - Saffron, Cippolini, Preserved Lemon, Fingerling Potatoes, Wild Rocket
CUT's menu has remained fairly consistent over the years which made the octopus a pleasant surprise. The charred salinity of the octopus paired nicely with the zing of the preserved lemon while the chips provided a crisp fatty counterpoint to the bitter arugula.

Kobe Steak Sashimi - Spicy Radishes
This was one of my favorite dishes back in 2007, but each subsequent version felt a bit more lacking than the last. The meat was dense and slick but not as fatty as I remember. Likewise, the bath of soy and astringency of the radish were enjoyable but the combination felt a bit too basic and crude.

Big Eye Tuna Tartare - Wasabi, Ginger, Togarashi Crisps, Tosa Soy
Though tired, CUT's tuna tartare has always satisfied. The fleshy texture of the fish is augmented by the fatty heft of the avocado while a generous dressing of classic sushi accoutrements thoroughly permeates the tartare.

Maple Glazed Pork Belly - Asian Spices, Watercress, Sesame-Orange Dressing, Wild Huckleberry Compote
The belly was a bit overdone for my tastes but still with plenty of porcine flavor. The compote was a bit ham-handed but I did enjoy the fresh crunch of the cress.

Crispy Veal Sweetbreads - Black Garlic, Mizuna, Celery Root, Tangerine Earl Grey Gastrique
Being a steakhouse, Puck tends to play a bit safter with the menu at CUT which made the sweetbreads an unexpected pleasure. The lobe of thymus was lightly sauteed, drawing out its the creamy offal-y character which stood in sharp contrast to the bitter puree and zesty mizuna.

Bone In New York Sirloin 20 Oz - U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days
New York Sirloin 14 Oz - U.S.D.A. PRIME, Black Angus Beef, Creekstone Farm, Arkansas City, Kansas, Dry Aged 35 Days
New York Sirloin 8 Oz - American Wagyu / Angus "Kobe Style" Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho
New York 6 Oz - True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef From Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu
Now we come to the heart of the meal. For our first tasting we went with the New York steaks. The wet aged steak was the toughest and least flavorful of the bunch. The dry aged cut had a noticeably purer beef flavor but felt a bit overdone. The American Wagyu proved to be the most balanced of the steaks with significantly more marbling than the two previous steaks. The Miyazaki beef was in a whole other league with a rim of oily marbling that gave the meat an overwhelming buttery richness. Though I personally believe using sauce on steak to be a mortal sin, these cuts were overly heavy on char with little else in terms of flavor.

Bone In Rib Eye Steak 20 Oz - U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days
Rib Eye Steak 12 Oz - U.S.D.A. PRIME, Black Angus Beef, Creekstone Farm, Arkansas City, Kansas, Dry Aged 35 Days
Rib Eye Steak 9 Oz - American Wagyu / Angus "Kobe Style" Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho
Rib Eye 8 Oz - True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef From Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu
The rib-eye steaks were fairly consistent across the various cuts with higher fat content on the prime beef but more balance on the Wagyu. Though just as under seasoned as the strip steaks, the higher fat content helped give the meat more flavor. Naturally the Japanese Wagyu was the best followed by the American Wagyu; the one surprise was the fact that the wet aged actually outshone the dry aged being both more flavorful and tender.

Filet Mignon 6 Oz - American Wagyu / Angus "Kobe Style" Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho
I've never cared for filet finding the trade in flavor not worth the extra tenderness though the extra marbling from the Wagyu stock went a long way towards remedying that problem.

Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé - Whipped Crème Fraiche, Gianduja Chocolate Ice Cream
CUT's version of this timeless dessert was totally on point, with rich chocolate flavor oozing out of each bite of the fluffy delicate cake.

Pink Lady Apple & D'Anjoy Pear Toasted Pecan Crumble - Butter Pecan Ice Cream
The combination of apple and pear was a bit much for me. All that ripe fruit overshadowed the "crust" elements of the dish though to be fair by the time the bowl got to me there wasn't much crumble or ice cream left.

"Baked Alaska" - Satsuma Mandarin Orange & Mascarpone Gelato, Sicilian Pistachios
Hidden underneath the elaborately torched meringue was a bracingly fresh orange and marscarpone gelato. The duo played marvelously together while the bits of pistachio added a nice textural contrast

Dark Chocolate Pudding Cake - Cocoa Nib Streusel, Honey & Rosemary Ice Cream
I was a little let down by the chocolate cake which was both boring and poorly-executed. The dessert's one saving grace was the ice cream which was loaded with the pine-y savor of rosemary.

"Banana Cream Pie" - Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée, Caramel Sauce, Banana Sorbet
I'm not a big fan of banana but the pie had a fairly soft touch and I was further won over by the multifaceted layers of flavor particularly the glassy burnt sugar of the Crème Brûlée.

Mignardises - Meyer Lemon Tart, Jack Daniel Chocolates, Coffee Macaron
The lemon tart with its sharp acidity was my favorite of the trio though the herbaceous flavor of the whiskey-infused chocolate was certainly the most intriguing.

After getting off to a rocky start, the meal did improve though it never reached the lofty heights of my past visits. The apps were fairly tasty particularly the new entries, but my old favorites didn't excite like they once did and the drop quality extended to the steaks as well which were both tougher and blander than I remember. Despite the generally enjoyable meal, CUT seems to have lost a step or two in the past few years. Based on the strength of this meal, I think I might have a new favorite steakhouse, Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas.

No comments: