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CUT by Wolfgang Puck
A dinner at CUT starts with a very properly dressed someone showing you to your table. You sit down and find a little stand thoughtfully filled with complimentary Parmesan breadsticks already waiting for you. Free Parmesan breadsticks! There’s something very quaint and quintessentially American about this. It’s just like how all the students of Glee’s William McKinley High School are obsessed with that restaurant, Breadstix. So far, the parmesan breadsticks are nice. Everything is nice.
The very properly dressed someone will ask you if you want water, still or sparkling. She will pour it for you and leave the bottle (of Fiji Natural Artesian Water) in a fancy silver stand on the corner of your table. It’s super unnecessary, but also nice. Everything is nice.
You don’t know it yet because it was never printed on any menu, but that nice bottle of water in that nice silver stand is costing you a very nice $14 (not including service and GST). Which is to say that if you are the kind of person who can thoughtlessly pay 400% markup for a bottle of unnecessarily fancy water at a restaurant, then everything at CUT will continue to be oh-so-very nice and you can stop reading here and proceed to enjoy your Crazy Rich Asian life as per normal.
If not, well then, read on.
After we placed our orders, another bevy of free carbs appeared. First, in an elaborately folded napkin, four gougères – soft little cheese pastries that are light and buttery; very easy to eat – then a selection of sliced breads that you pick from a large tray held aloft by another very properly dressed someone. Obviously, you know a restaurant is capital “f” Fancy when your bread basket is another human being, and FYI, the best bread of the lot is the focaccia.
Then, we were served our starters. One Maryland Blue Crab Cake and a bowl of White Asparagus Soup. The large-ish crab cake is packed with sizable chunks of fresh crab meat and tasted like the ocean, in a good way. The asparagus soup is less assuming but also lovely – sweet, delicate flavours of tender white asparagus mellowed with cream and punctuated by crisp cubes of smoky bacon.
This is when you start to get that the point of CUT is classic recipes, executed well, with high quality ingredients. They are not reinventing the wheel here. But at these prices, maybe they should, just a little. In short: everything is nice. But mind-blowing? No. This is the kind of meal that makes you go, “Mmm… nice,” but not “Wow, how did they…??!?!”
The point is proved again when our main courses come: 170 grams of U.S.D.A. Prime New York Sirloin Steak, and Hand Cut French Fries, served with sides of Creamed Spinach and Tuscan Black Kale. The medium rare steak is cooked to textbook perfection: a dark, almost-crispy char on the outside, reddish-pink and juicy in the middle. It’s a robust steak, chewy, flavourful and as mentioned, cooked really well. This isn’t melt-in-your-mouth meat, but we are on a budget. (Specifically, the “Early CUTs” menu budget.)
As for the sides, the creamed spinach is the most impressive, which isn’t saying much. It’s creamy and smooth to the point that we write down, “vegetables for the elderly” in our notes. The sauteed kale leaves are nothing to write home about. It’s just kale. And the hand cut French fries are so uninteresting that even by the time our dishes are collected, the little bowls of fries are still almost full. Or maybe we were just super stuffed by that point. Shouldn’t have eaten so much bread.
Finally, we were served our Strawberry Shortcake, but you already know what we’re going to say about it. It was nice, but it didn’t rock our world or anything.
In the end, the whole meal did feel a lot like an episode of Glee. It had shiny, polished, and pretty moments, but what’s the bigger picture? There doesn’t seem to be a point-of-view to this food; there is finesse, but where’s the flair? The soul? You can’t tell who Wolfgang Puck is by eating this food, that’s for sure. For that, you’d have to consult his portrait up on the wall.
And why is everything so expensive? Ingredients? Maybe. Location? Probably. The “celebrity chef” experience? Yes, definitely. Weighing all those things, the main question we asked ourselves after our meal was, “Does Singapore’s culinary landscape need a place like CUT?” And with other steakhouses in the city – Luke’s, the other Wolfgang’s – the answer is, actually it does not. But you know, we are an ambitious little country that loves when big names set up shop here, so, seen from that perspective, maybe it does.
Read the rest of the Mitchell Lin Guide here.
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