Wednesday, June 6, 2007

CUT By Wolfgang Puck

As a die hard frequenter of many of NYC's top Steakhouses I will admit a certain prejudice towards how a steak should be served and what should accompany it. There is something so primal and staid about the "beefsteak" dinner- a huge slab of dry aged steer, creamed spinach and hash browns. In an increasingly fast paced, rapidly changing world it is heartening and comforting to be able to eat a meal that tasted virtually the same decades ago. Yet I can also appreciate high end cuisine, and I recognize the need to move the art forward. Recent meals at Daniel and Gordon Ramsey in NYC reiterated to me just how incredible a meal can be when the finest ingredients are available, unfettered by fiscal constraints and only limited by the Chefs imagination. But as a steak purist I always assumed that the steakhouses had a lock on the best beef and had perfected steak preparation. And a few years ago I would have been correct but along with the hamburger the steakhouse seems to be the latest "chef"driven culinary trend and one that I was frankly loathe to participate in, again reiterating my prejudice. I also scrupulously avoided "boutique" steer such as Wagyu and the such both out of cultural bias and indignation at its high cost. Yet for some reason visiting LA seems to have lifted these constraints. The fact that I am far from my favorite steaks at Smith & Wollensky, Wolfgang's and Peter Luger some how allows me to broaden my horizons. Could Wolfgang Puck's Cut change my mind about the "chef driven" steakhouse? The answer is a resounding yes but with some caveats.

Unlike the gaudy, visually overpowering decor at Spago the interior of Cut is a wonderfully minimalist, modern room. Sweeping curves and right angles juxtapose creating an invitingly warm room but one bereft of the visual distractions that can plague such spaces. Just as at Spago the service was excellent. With apologies to all the New York steakhouse waiters that I have over tipped the service at Cut is well, a cut above what you get at an even above average steakhouse. The service here rivals the finest I have had, namely the aforementioned Daniel in NYC and Hemingway's in Killington Vt. And the menu is both diverse and expansive offering far more complex appetizers than the standard blue cheese wedge and shrimp cocktail of the traditional steakhouse. Cut offers such rarities as Veal tongue, bone marrow flan and Kobe salami . The steak offerings are simply staggering, here is the complete menu:

U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days

Porterhouse 34 Oz (For Two) Per Person $51
Bone In New York Sirloin 20 Oz $52
Bone In Rib Eye Steak 20 Oz $55
Bone In Filet Mignon 16 Oz $55
Petit Cut Filet Mignon 8 Oz $45

U.S.D.A. PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days
Bone In Rib Eye Steak 19 Oz $59
New York Sirloin 14 Oz $58
Petit Cut New York 10 Oz $46

American Wagyu / Angus “Kobe Style” Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho

Porterhouse 34 Oz (For Two) Per Person $65
New York Sirloin 8 Oz $70 ($20 each additional 2 Ounces)
Filet Mignon 6 Oz $60 ($20 each additional 2 Ounces)

True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
New York Sirloin $120 6 Oz ($40 Each Additional 2 Ounces)
Rib Eye Steak $160 8 Oz ($40 Each Additional 2 Ounces)
Filet Mignon $130 6 Oz ($40 Each Additional 2 Ounces)

All steaks grilled over hard wood and charcoal then finished under a 1200 Degree Broiler.

As you can see the 21 day aged domestic steaks run about $10 more on average than you average NY steakhouse and while I was tempted to order one to see how it would stack up I went instead for the Petite Nebraska NY Cut. I also ordered the 8oz Japanese Wagyu rib eye. Even at $160 it was a no brainer once I feasted my eyes upon this:

The bottom cuts are the Japanese rib eye on the left and the NY strip on the right, the top the American Wagyu fillet and strip. The marbling is so pronounced that I simply had to have it and it was a revelatory experience. The Nebraska strip was no slouch, it had a hearty beefy flavor, althoughgh it had a peppery au povre like seasoning which I would have preferred not be applied. Never the less there was still good evidence of the musky dry aged flavor I so value and the beef had a very delicate texture and plenty of juice. It was also cooked perfectly rare with a nice char on the outside. However it was not better than say the Peter Luger strip in terms of flavor, although it was slightly more tender, no doubt a result of extended aging. While the steak was excellent I would not choose it over any of the strips at the aforementioned steakhouses.

But the Wagyu rib eye was so intense, so rich and buttery, so intoxicatingly flavorful that that it was hard not to order another one. Cooked medium rare to effectively emulsify all the internal fat it was so tender that it does not melt in your mouth, it melts your mouth. This is utterly exquisite, decadent food and an example of the what is possible given virtually unlimited funds. Quite honestly despite the modest size of the portion the beef is so rich and fatty that I doubt I could eat much more than what was served. As a comparison here is a shot of the rib eye on the left and the strip on the right:

The strip has nice marbling but just look at that complex cob web like structure of the Kobe, truly amazing stuff. As for the side items I largely ignored them, I ordered peas and onion rings that were both delicious but the steak was so outstanding that I barely touched them. So in the final analysis I am definitely addicted to Wagyu beef and while I would not give up my regular haunts for satisfying my dry aged grain fed steer graving I will approach the chef driven steakhouse with an open mind and wallet.

Cut By Wolfgang Puck
9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA
Phone: (310) 275-5200

1 comment:

Jimu said...

Thanks for the insightful review. I'm going there tonight and was wondering how it would stack up to Peter Lugers. I suppose I can order the Nebraska without the sauce.