When I heard about Cut steakhouse I wanted to know:
a) How expensive is it? and
b) Is the cost justified?
These questions aren't unlike those on historic site tours when inquiring minds never fail to ask, "how long did it take to build?" and "how much did it cost?" Yet given the recent surfeit of steakhouses, this type of curiosity about Cut is additionally relevant.
To address these searing (so to speak) matters:
It's a good thing I'm not drinking, otherwise dinner would've been one of the most expensive meals of my life. But it was special enough to be worth our shekels. That being said, I wouldn't suggest Cut as a place to stop by regularly unless you're the capo dei tutti capi of a Hollywood studio, prez of WMA, the Sultan of Brunei, or a F.o.W. (The man is like a superhero. He's everywhere at once, or at least I've managed to see him at the majors of his chain.)
Just to reiterate: you pay a lot to eat at Cut. All the starters are in the mid-teens and up. Yet I have not a single regret about the $16 silky bone marrow flan with meaty mushroom marmalade and served with a basket of delicate toast points. What a lovely culinary contrast! My grandfather would be utterly bewildered by this dish. No grandpa, you don't have to smash the bones with your bare hands and gross out your dining companions to get the goods.
Among the few single-digit menu items are side sauces. Before I know our $44 per-person Illinois porterhouse that's carved at our table comes with mustards, homemade steak sauce, barnaise, and a grape-infused slightly sweet something-or-other, I'm pissed that they have the nerve to nickel and dime customers when it comes to the damn sauces. It's still not really excusable, but you're given enough dressings to keep your meat in fine company.
What you're not given are any side dishes.
Each start at ten dollars. They also happen to be astonishingly good, and as memorable as the carefully charred exterior of the steak that's given a final 1200-degree searing. I've never had anything like the sweet kernels of caramelized corn.
Cut's version of potato "tarte tatin" could never be replicated in my kitchen. The round mound ensconces smooth potatoes within a hard shell of gently layered fried golden potato slices. Hmm, double butter, just like tarte tatin should be. It also tastes so... Jewish. Or Eastern European. Must be the shallots blended with the potato puree; this combo recalls the flavor of onions mixed with potatoes and matzo meal in latkes.
We wait at least half an hour so I can contemplate dessert. I think I can resist the souffl, but I can't. I'm weak. Plus it's my birthday. We eat about half of the huge $14 dessert that's puffy goodness from the firm top through the velvety interior. The extravaganza comes with gianduia ice cream, crme fraiche whipped cream and ten times more Valrhona chocolate sauce than you'll ever need.
Sitting in a dining room designed by a Pritzker-winning architect in the midst of prime Bev Hills hotel real estate, for one. (The days of the relatively modest Pink Turtle in this same hotel are long gone. That's where I'd make my B.H. pit stops as an um, wee tot.) Meier's not one of my fave starchitects, nor do I think he's a stellar designer of interior spaces, but at night the predominantly white (of course � yawn) room manages to pull off some warmth. Wood soffit and lighting details that continue from the dining room through the rear lobby and into the accompanying lounge, Sidebar, are beautifully fabricated. Tushies and backs are very happy when seated in the Eames Aluminum Group chairs with Cygnus mesh; I now know what desk chair I'd pick if given my druthers. The dishes, Mackintosh-inspired flatware and again, Chilewich placemats are all spot-on.
Cocktails from Sidebar appear tempting (I was already interested when I read this article in July) and the wait staff equally endorses the higher and lower priced wines by the glass. A Beckmen syrah is well priced at $12, and served in an attractive conical shaped Spiegelau decanter sized for one.
Then there's that whole paying-a-lot-of-money-for-people-to-be-nice-to-you thing. Cut has the kind of attentive and bottom line-driven service that comes off as if they're doing you a sweet favor every time you accept an offer of say, another bottle of overpriced water. As if they're giving it to you for free. Goddamnit, I hate an effective hard sell � in theory � until they make you feel good bringing you stuff that's priced around the GNP of some small developing nations. I can't say I don't respect that hustle when it's executed flawlessly, even if it pisses me off. They've taken a page from the Danny Meyer book of taking care of people. They'd probably even slice your meat into tiny bite-sized pieces if you ask them to.
And when Wolfgang turns around in his seat to pour the steak sauce on our plates, insisting we try it with our buttery and thyme-infused porterhouse slices, how can we not follow his instructions?
I surmise we'll shut the place down since we're the last reservation and we like to take our sweet time. Our superb waiter, Danny, thinks some tables will linger longer than us (probably because we're not ordering multiple bottles of wine or after dinner drinks.) But I'm proven right, which I don't feel bad about since the remaining staff is still busy anyway. Yet this late departure clues us into one area in which Cut needs improvement. As the hours tick, the musical selections give the vibe of a long night coming to a close at an Ibiza discothque rather than a Mecca of supposed Good Taste. I register this complaint with Danny, who seems to get the point.
Cut's got the food, design, service and accoutrements down. Now it's time to work on that mix. It's really not that hard to find someone with good musical taste, too.
Dining among insane riches has its obvious weirdnesses, like your typical couples composed of fat balding guy with trophy gal. Other signs you're in the thick of 90210 include overhearing some chick comment that the Beverly Wilshire is "no Penins" (she then realized she sounded like an ass and repeated herself, adding the "-ula" to the name of the neighboring hotel), and seeing outrageously well-appointed left hands.
9500 Wilshire Blvd. (at Rodeo)
Beverly Hills 90210