Reviews: Chicago Cut Steakhouse and Mastro’s

RIVER NORTH STEAKOUT: Meat, the new boss—same as the old boss

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Chicago Cut Steakhouse

THE SKINNY

Chicago Cut Steakhouse 300 N. LaSalle St.; 312-329-1800
FYI The $65 surf and turf includes ethereal Tristan rock lobster from the cold Atlantic waters near South Africa.
TAB $80 to $95
HOURS Breakfast, lunch Mon–Fri; dinner nightly; brunch Sat, Sun

« Mastro’s review

Men in suits. Everywhere you look at Chicago Cut, you see men in suits. Clinking their tumblers in the rollicking bar, slicing into porterhouses in the crowded room, wandering down from billable hours at Kirkland & Ellis upstairs, loitering near the coat check. You can’t tell the waiters from the customers. It’s become something of a cliché to call a steak house “masculine,” but this sparkly new spot from Matt Moore and David Flom, a pair of Rosebud veterans (i.e., men in suits), goes beyond dudefest and enters into some alternate universe populated only by males and their livestock. It’s also more ambitious than any Rosebud ever was.

The overpacked dining room is steak house by the numbers—crimson velvet, faux leather, copious mirrors—with one bonus: an entire wall of 21-foot-tall windows surveying the Chicago River and Loop beyond. A breathtaking view, sure; even more so when you factor in the room’s lack of oxygen. Where Mastro’s menu is terse to the point of inconvenience, Chicago Cut’s gushes with information, sporting everything from explanations of meat temperatures to a diagram of a cow’s bodily regions. The generous waitstaff are similarly obliging, though some more than others. On one visit an apathetic waiter took my wineglass away while I was still drinking my lush 2007 Jim Barry Lodge Hill shiraz. Twice.

But you know what? Otherwise, the suits are all right. Chicago Cut’s bone-in rib eye is tremendous, dry-aged in-house for 35 to 40 days, butchered on the premises, and cooked in 1,800-degree Southbend infrared broilers. The bone marrow melts right into the beef, and it’s got that caramelized outer layer with the perfect salt char—minus the ashy tinge that always turns me off at Gibsons. Nothing else on the menu approaches this level, not even winners such as the seared foie gras with a scoop of orange marmalade or the shellfish bouquet of fresh lobster tail, shrimp, crab bites, and oysters from both coasts. The Dutch Dover sole meunière is a simple delight, though at $49 it felt like the manager was deboning my credit card tableside along with my fish. The salads are hit or miss, and desserts, while obnoxiously large, are just miss.

I guess I’m supposed to have an opinion on the restaurant’s modern touch: the iPad wine list. Is it an improvement over the unwieldy leather volumes it’s meant to replace or just wonky technogimmickry? Neither. It’s a crutch for the waiters, who obviously don’t know the wine list and don’t need to, because the customers are buying wine hand over fist.

There’s something vaguely perverse right now about new steak houses like Mastro’s and Chicago Cut, where indulgence and extravagance are not only accepted but treasured. I had fun at both restaurants, but the usual question—Are they any good?—gives way to a more nagging concern: Does Chicago really need them?

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