I’m not sure when I first learned about Wolfgang Puck’s signature steakhouse named CUT, but it seems like I’ve been hearing its name every other week for the past year. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith were photographed having a double date there last year, it was the setting for a lunch meeting in a recent Entourage episode, Adam Carolla on his radio show/podcast talked about his encounter there with a couple The Hills stars in December, on and on, not to mention all the food blog reviews I’ve encountered. CUT is a very hot restaurant, to say the least, and for quite a while, I’ve been looking forward to eating here with its genuine Japanese Wagyu steaks (think: Kobe beef). I made reservations a month in advance!
CUT opened mid-2006 at the heart of Beverly Hills inside Beverly Wilshire, the quintessential Los Angeles hotel and the setting for the movie Pretty Woman. Beverly Wilshire sits on prime real estate, directly across the street from the shopping center Via Rodeo and right on Rodeo Drive. The hotel doesn’t look like much from the outside (nor the inside for that matter), but for those who appreciate the history and significance, I suppose it’s a big deal. To be fair, I only walked around the lobby to the restaurant — I’m sure the guests get the royal treatment and experience the true class of the place.
I couldn’t take any photos inside the restaurant because it was very dark and if I remember correctly, the only lighting in the place came from candles. The extremely dim lighting would be already be problematic if I had brought my Canon SLR with me on the flight home (I didn’t), but with only a cheap, very old Powershot in hand, it would have been impossible for someone of my talents to take remotely worthwhile photos. So I didn’t even bother.
Instead, I’m going to borrow a few photos from kevinEats’ fantastic review of the restaurant. Speaking of which, while I love reading food blogs, I am in no way a genuine foodie because I simply don’t have the vocabulary, sophisticated palate, food knowledge and experience that these people do. So if you’re expecting a technical review of the dishes served at CUT, boy do you have the wrong person. But if you’re a commoner like I am, read on! The kevinEats review has dozens of quality photos and is very much worth your time so I’ll link to it again at the end of this post.
The dinner began with multiple servings of bread, starting with breadsticks, then a sort of cheesy pastry. Finally a tray with assorted bread slices was brought out for us to select from. The focaccia was my favorite, but they also had pumpernickel, whole wheat, and sourdough.
We were at CUT for the steaks, and being the cheap Taiwanese diners that we are, we probably would have forgone appetizers if this were any other steakhouse. However, I had read good things about a couple of the appetizers, plus since we were at this upscale restaurant, we felt it would be too embarrassing if we only ordered steaks and then scrammed.
Bone Marrow Flan, Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley Salad $17 (I’m posting prices for those interested because the restaurant webpage doesn’t list them)
We initially weren’t sure how to eat this. Our server politely showed us that the bone marrow and mushroom marmalade were to be used as a sort of jam on the provided bread slices. I wasn’t too big a fan of this dish, though I’ve since forgotten the exact taste. Didn’t make a strong impression on me evidently. It was sort of a slightly tangy, creamy mush.
Kobe Steak Sashimi, Spicy Radishes $22
This one, however, was amazing. Yes, that’s kobe sashimi, i.e. raw beef. Five, no, maybe two years ago, I never would have voluntarily eaten something like this, let alone be the one to suggest ordering it. Lately I’ve become a much more adventurous eater. Even so, I would dare to eat raw beef only from a quality restaurant like CUT.
It’s funny, I read so often about the importance of contrast and how it can make a dish come alive, but it wasn’t until I tasted this that I truly understood what that meant. By itself, the raw kobe steak was wonderfully rich and smooth, almost dreamily so, lulling you to sleep. But the fresh radishes were a crisp, refreshing splash of cold water to the palate. I find it amazing that something as simple as a radish can be so effortlessly used to accentuate an individual ingredient. The difference between eating a bite of beef alone and combined with the radishes was startling. This dish was brilliant.
Now on to the main event. Here’s the breakdown of the different cuts that were offered:
U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days
Porterhouse 34 Oz (For Two) per person $56
Bone In New York Sirloin 20 Oz $56
Bone In Rib Eye Steak 20 Oz $58
Bone In Filet Mignon 16 Oz $56
Petit Cut Filet Mignon 8 Oz $50
U.S.D.A. PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days
New York Sirloin 14 Oz $59
Petit Cut New York 10 Oz $48
**Rib Eye Steak 16 Oz $62
American Wagyu / Angus “Kobe Style” Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho
**Filet Mignon 6 Oz $70
**New York Sirloin 8 Oz $75
True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
New York Sirloin 6 Oz $120
**Filet Mignon 6 Oz $130
Rib Eye Steak 8 Oz $160
Similar to what Kevin and his dining companions did, we ordered a different steak each and split them amongst us to make custom samplers. To do a true comparison of the four grades of beef offered, we would have needed to order the New York Sirloin cuts from all four grades, but we chose the starred ones designated above.
The steaks were absolutely delicious. I’m curious whether I would be able to accurately distinguish between the steaks if I were to eat a different one on separate days, but having them all together at once on my plate, the differences between the steaks were crystal clear. At any other restaurant, the Nebraskan Aged 35 days would be a standout steak, but here it paled next to its competitors, being more chewy and tougher. The two American Wagyu steaks were plainly much more tender and richer, with the Japanese Wagyu standing at the top.
Surprisingly, this Japanese Wagyu steak wasn’t nearly as marbled and fatty as the Wagyu I tried at Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill. Which is actually a good thing. That Tokyo steak was too excessively fatty for me, and while it was an unique taste, there was no way I could stomach eating an entire steak of that beef. The marbling in the Wagyu at CUT was more subdued and thus more palatable. It was clearly the king out of the four in terms of flavor and texture.
Worth the large jump in price though? I recommend trying the Japanese Wagyu at least once if you get a chance, but if I were to regularly visit CUT, I think my main steak would be the American Wagyu filet mignon to be honest, purely from a dollar vs. enjoyment ratio.
The meal ended with a few tiny desserts provided on the house (we didn’t buy any real desserts), and that was the end of a spectacular meal. Since I haven’t dined at all the top tier steakhouses in Los Angeles, there’s no way I can claim CUT to be the best steakhouse in L.A., but it’s definitely of the highest quality and worth the drive out there (I live in San Gabriel Valley, part of the sprawling Los Angeles area and actually not that far from Beverly Hills in terms of miles, but I don’t regularly head that far west because, well, L.A. traffic…) So in some ways, saying a Los Angeles restaurant is worth the drive is the highest compliment!
It’s hard to say definitively since it’s not like I could directly compare all these steaks, but I believe the Yamagata ribeye I had at Park Hyatt Tokyo is my all-time favorite steak. Additionally, the overall dining experience I had there on top of that breathtaking hotel, considering the location, ambience, and food, is still the best of my life. CUT would likely be one of my top 5.
A few miscellaneous things to end the review: As I mentioned at the top of the post, this restaurant is a favorite of celebrities, and all sorts of Hollywood figures and hotshots are regulars, supposedly. However, I can recognize only a few celebs by name, even fewer by appearance. There could be some movie star sitting at the adjacent table and I would most likely not even give him a second glance. For celeb lovers, this could be an extra perk for eating here.
The maître d’/hostess (I’m not sure of the difference) that night was a a stunningly gorgeous woman with perfect skin and amazing figure. In Los Angeles, it’s common for budding models and actresses to work in restaurants while waiting for their big break. We were discussing her and thinking she could be a model, but I eventually pointed out that she was probably too short to be one. She definitely walked like one though.
Another thanks to kevinEats for his photos. He has an excellent restaurant review blog and covered his experience at CUT in much more detail than I did. If you want to see the marbling in the steaks in close detail, click the link. Coincidentally, I believe I sat in the same booth Kevin did, judging from his photos of the dining tables. If you visit CUT, I recommend sitting in the upper booths if possible since you’ll be looking right at the open kitchen. Very cool. Wolfgang Puck didn’t show that night, but I heard he stops by regularly.