Palazzo (last visit: September 2011).
When I first wrote about CUT in 2008, Palazzo's web site listed nine restaurants that it classified as fine dining; three of those were steakhouses. This showed a complete lack of imagination, did't leave much room for good restaurants and really pissed me off. Sadly, I supported their decision by going to one of them. CUT is an offshoot of the highly regarded original in Beverly Hills, and a member of the Wolfgang Puck empire.
Choices go a little beyond the standard steakhouse menu. Thus, appetizers include warm veal tongue and bone marrow flan. Side dishes include polenta and a potato tarte tatin, and rotisserie duckling is offered as an entrée. However, steak is still the star. You can choose corn fed beef that is dry aged 21 days or 35 days. Also available is "Kobe style" American beef from Snake River Farms, or true wagyu beef from Japan's Kagoshima prefecture. CUT deserves credit for not calling their wagyu Kobe, even though it may be just as good. Too many other restaurants use the term Kobe for beef that was never within 5,000 miles of Japan. For a quick and dirty description of Kobe beef, click here.
There is a formal dining room, a lounge, and a bar. The full menu is available at all three.
I've always chosen the bar or adjacent lounge. The bar consists of eight seats, with a black bar top, black chairs, white floor and white ceiling high overhead. Behind the bar is a wine storage area. The adjacent lounge has the same colors, plus some red tables; lounge seating is for about 60 people. Music plays at a medium level; overall noise levels are moderate but not bothersome.
My First Meal
Being that I was at the bar, I actually ordered a drink - a Pearfect Martini. Made with Absolut Pear Vodka, pear purée and lime juice, it was medium sweet and had good flavor as well as a little texture from the purée. Its appearance was interesting, looking like an emulsion. An amuse bouche appeared at the same time. Gruyère gougères (fancy cheese puffs) were a good accompaniment to the drink.
Next to arrive was the bread tray. It was a portent of things to come - lots of rich, heavy food. I selected two items. Pretzel bread was aptly named. It was a lot like a soft pretzel, but softer still, sprinkled with coarse salt and with the insides like a soft roll - hard to describe, but good. Focaccia with onion had lots of fried onion, overall good flavor, and was my favorite by far. Uncharacteristically, I had the good sense to refuse seconds.
My first course was bone marrow flan with mushroom marmalade and parsley salad. Two bones were filled with marrow custard; a rich dark sauce pooled on the plate. It was a small amount, but so rich that no more was needed. More importantly, it was very good.
As an entrée, I chose A Tasting of New York Sirloin - three different quality levels of sirloin: two ounces of Japanese wagyu from Kagoshima prefecture (a rival of Kobe); four ounces of American beef from Snake River Farms, sometimes erroneously called Kobe when it should actually be called "Kobe style;" four ounces of USDA prime dry aged beef from Nebraska.
I ordered it medium rare, which is exactly how it arrived. Each piece was heavily charred on the outside, looking almost like it had been burnt. Not to worry - the char flavor was just right, and it wasn't overcooked at all. Kudos to the chef. Now, to the beef itself:
I was now stuffed. I should have ended my meal there, but nooooooooo... I saw an interesting dessert: Fuji Apple Tarte Tatin, with salted caramel and prune Armagnac ice cream. Tarte tatin is a classic French dish; CUT's version was a bit nontraditional. It consisted of pieces of cooked but firm apple, with caramel sauce. On top of that was placed a piece of puff pastry; whipped cream crowned it all. It looked better than it tasted. The apple, caramel and puff pastry didn't blend together; they just tasted like three separate ingredients placed on a plate. Overall, good enough but not special.
- The USDA prime beef was certainly good enough, but other than the nice cooking job doesn't merit much comment.
- Snake River Farms' beef was noticeably better. It was much fattier, but in a good way, with the fat in small enough bits that it provided richness and flavor.
- The Japanese wagyu was much, much better. It was fattier still, but the fat was finely marbled throughout the meat. It was as juicy as could be, with lots of flavor. I finished this first, and it made eating the others not nearly as much fun.
I've returned several times - usually for the excellent Japanese Wagyu. However, from April 2010 through August 2012, there was a ban on the import of Japanese beef (due to a hoof and mouth outbreak). As a substitute, the restaurant offered Wagyu from other Australia and New Zealand. I tried the New Zealand version, and was disappointed. For almost as much money as the Japanese variety, I got a steak that was better than their other offerings, but not nearly good enough to be worth the money. CUT started offering true Japanese Wagyu again in September 2012. However, as of October 2012, the Japanese wagyu is merely A4, with a BMS of 6. Translation: good, but not great; to me, not worth the money.
Other than that, I can recommend:
An appetizer of warm veal tongue, with artichoke, beans, grape tomatoes and vinaigrette.
Wild field mushrooms.
CUT is very good indeed - the best steak house I've tried so far. I should add a caveat: I'm a bit of a peasant when it comes to steak; in general, I'm as happy with a hamburger. Perhaps I can't appreciate a steak that has been aged for months (as at Carnevino, which is often mentioned as having the best steak in town). CUT is my favorite because it offers Japanese Wagyu, chars their steaks nicely, and has tasty side dishes.
Having said all that, it's still just a steak house, and it's hard to justify spending this kind of money on a hunk of meat. If you want to try true, high quality Japanese Wagyu, then go. If money is no object, then go. Otherwise, go to a more modest place, secure in the knowledge that the difference between the two isn't all that huge.
The meal was $175, plus drinks, tax and tip.
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