Sunday, June 7, 2009

Restaurant Cagematch, Episode 1: The Giants of Steak

I know it’s rare of me to blog about steak two blogs in a row, but fuck you. You don’t want to read my blog, have fun finding another blog on the internet.

Wait… what? No, please stay. I’ll pay you.

A new blog feature! It’s Restaurant Cagematch, where two dining establishments that purport to serve the same thing square off in a three round grudge match, no holds barred. Today’s epic showdown is between those two world-famous harbingers of epic slabs of beef… Wolfgang Puck’s Cut Steakhouse and Amalgamated Edible Products, LLC’s Outback Steakhouse. Boom!

ROUND 1: Service

It’s a close one in this category; upon arrival at Cut, the average patron must go through a credit check before being seated. Although obtaining a false credit rating is easier than ordering a steak these days, know before you go.

Whereas at Outback, customers are treated as if guests in the staff’s home. Unwanted guests, sure, but guests nonetheless. Expect to get a table that is clean. When I went, I enjoyed the services of not one but TWO waiters, neither of whom knew about the other. After placing two drink orders, I mentioned the anomaly to Chris, the older of the two.

“I think there’s another guy who thinks this is his table, too.”
“Well, it’s not. It’s mine.”
“That’s all well and good, but maybe you should tell the other guy.”
“Who was it? Whoever it was, he’s wrong. This is definitely my table.”
“He’s bald and wore a green shirt. Not like your red shirt.”
“Are you sure he thinks he’s your server
“He told us he was our server.”
“I don’t believe this.”

And…. It’s Cut by a nose. Rack it up to the extreme physical attractiveness of the wait staff and their fetishistic explanation of the various cuts of beef they serve as they literally show you raw meat at your table. Although the homestyle insistence that I remove the cap from my own beer was a nice touch at Outback.

ROUND 2: Appetizers

No surprise, but Outback is the clear winner here over the creamy polenta at Cut. Instead of describing the act of eating the signature app, I will recant the story of its invention in screenplay form:


Ah, the lightning round. Again, a tough comparison that merits backstory. For the price of a 6-ounce Kobe steak at Cut without sides, drinks, or tip, you could treat four people to a full meal with beer at Outback. But wait, I have one more fact for you.

My first bite of the Cut filet was the absolute best piece of food I have ever had.

But here comes Outback with a surprise move from the backfield… their sliced pepper steak with brandy cream sauce slathered over thick-ass Aussie fries hits the mothafuckin spot. Particularly if that spot is encased in eight inches of solid old-fashioned homegrown American Gut. Ideally top-coated with a t-shirt with wolves on it.

But… that Cut filet still calls for further analysis. Imagine the best beef you’ve ever had. It’s moist and tender, not chewy in the slightest but it doesn't just fall apart like, say, sushi. It’s beef and it’s proud of it… it speaks to you while in your mouth “I may be a fine piece of food, fit for dainty queens and duchesses, but I am Beef and I am bold.” Anyway, imagine that flavor, that dense char and pure animal goodness, and multiply it by a billion. Imagine it hitting your tongue first, then spreading over the rest of your mouth and soon your entire body, turning you into such a grinning idiot that when the boy comes by to refill your water he looks at you smugly as if to say “I knew it.” Multiply the experience sixteen times and boom, you just ate at Cut.

And in a close decision, Cut edges out Outback by just a hair. Kind of like the way Patrick Swayze edged out Chris Farley at the Chippendale’s audition.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Past, Present, and Future of Steak: A Review of Sorts

I look forward to having children. Well, one child. A son.

I should rephrase. I look forward to having a son. Well, a cool son. He should be smart, good-looking, and be able to peel the paint off a wall with well-timed putdowns. He should also appreciate a fine steak.

I should rephrase. I look forward to having a son who is just like me, only with a darker skin tone and way more muscles. He should also be less socially awkward and not inclined to killing himself if his espresso isn’t perfect. He should and will be able to play the guitar like a son of a bitch.

I should rephrase. I look forward to spawning a flawless being, a tower of masculinity who’s not afraid to enjoy a fine steak. Because when he comes of age I am going to take him to Peter Luger Steakhouse whether he likes it or not.

By this day, let’s call it sometime in 2034, Brooklyn will no longer be the most concentrated bastion of hipsterism in the nation but a sprawling collection of moving sidewalks and buildings made of air. But not Luger’s. Luger’s will inhabit the same brick building with a green canopy that it has been in since it was built by slaves. It will also have the same unfinished wooden tables that gave me so many splinters when I last dined there. Have you ever sat at a completely un-sanded table? Maybe, at a park. But this is a fine dining establishment. To expect your patrons to pay a hundred dollars apiece to sit at picnic tables while being blasted from above with fluorescent light so harsh that everyone looks like they’re on blow…. That takes balls. Big, juicy, corn-fed balls served in their own sauce. And yes, Peter Luger has bigger balls than any restaurant ever.

Once my son gets over the tables and the light, he will soon realize that there are no women in the restaurant, including the wait staff. He will be shocked.

“But papa, fine restaurants, according to your blog which has been published in nineteen different languages, are the ultimate aphrodisiacs. For sex! With women! Where are the women?”

I will laugh heartily, sip my wine, and explain.

“You see, boy, that holds true for other fine establishments. But this is a house of beef. This is a place where men come to eat steak. Now shut up and drink your wine.”
“But I am allergic to wine!”
“Yes, I forgot… your one flaw.”

My dearest boy will then beg my forgiveness as he notices there is indeed one woman in the restaurant. She is about 25 years old and has very large, mostly exposed breasts. She is sitting with an 80-year old man. My boy will ask me why such a man should be dining with such a woman and I will then explain to him how prostitution works. How the old man once received, through a Wall Street connection, a business card with the words “Starlight Entertainment” printed on it with a handwritten phone number and a password on the back. I will also explain that the man has brought his prostitute to Luger’s because she told him nothing turns her on more than inch-thick slabs of bacon served on a plate. Luckily, nothing pleases the man more than a simple laminated menu with entrĂ©e options limited to “steak for one,” “steak for two,” “steak for three,” or “steak for four.” The old man likes his dinners simple, beefy, and filled with prostitutes. I will teach my son that this is how all men like their dinners and he would do well to remember that.

Our steak, a dry-aged, cut porterhouse for two, will come to our table dripping with greatness and will be both medium-rare and perfect. The signature Luger steak sauce will offset the beef subtly and perfectly. There will be side dishes, potatoes or some shit. Dessert will be glorious, and the waiter will make it rain with chocolate coins before we leave.

But these are but the inconsequential details. For, as my boy will learn throughout the course of our meal, food can often be secondary to atmosphere, if dining in the proper location. And there is no better location to learn what it means to be a man.