In his younger days, Wolfgang Puck was a self-confessed “difficult” chef who refused requests from diners for their steaks to be well-done or to be served with side sauces. The Austrian-American kitchen king has since mellowed considerably, but the Dubai addition to his worldwide restaurant network isn’t without a side order of pretentiousness. Did we receive less-favourable treatment than guests perceived as “more important”? Possibly. Certainly repeated requests were required before we were eventually moved from our awkwardly positioned original table for two.
Nose-in-the-air silliness was the least of Cut’s problems, however. We were seated just after 9pm, but the little hand was nearer 10pm before any food apart from bread and water arrived on our table. A pre-starters drinks order failed to materialise – perhaps thanks to an uninterested-looking waitress, who was distractedly glancing around the room while taking our order. Later, that led to suspicions that our steaks were cooked the wrong way round – my dining partner asked for medium-to-well, yet her plate glistened with bloody meat juices; I had nary a drip from my medium selection.
All of which was a shame, because the food was among the finest that money can buy. The wild field mushroom tortelloni was a rare pasta-based occasion where you couldn’t muse: “I could have made that myself at home.” The bone marrow flan – a slight misnomer, as it was presented in two cylindrical sections of actual bone, with a delicious mushroom marmalade and toasted brioche – was revelatory, with a consistency between foie gras and pâté.
The steaks were mind-blowing, particularly the delicate 55-gram oblong of true Japanese full-blood Wagyu that formed one-third of my confusingly named tasting of New York sirloin – alongside 85 grams apiece of USDA prime (a little less memorable) and Australian Wagyu/Angus (devoured gleefully). The Argentinian chimichurri sauce was divine, as well. My companion chose a full 280 grams of Australian Wagyu/Angus rib-eye, and was defeated by the meaty mass, despite enjoying every bite. The pick of the sides was a sizeable dish of caramelised pumpkins, parsnips and dates, with chunks of Wagyu “bacon”.
Dessert worked best when kept simple: the yuzu blueberry baked Alaska had a touch too much citric tartness going on, but the roasted apple and pear crumble was as homely as it was lovely – it was doled up by a friendly waiter who cheerfully informed us that leaving the crumble on diners’ tables, rather than eating it himself, was “the worst part” of his job. As that anecdote suggests, several of the numerous staff that attended to us exceeded their less-distinguished colleagues, although we were constantly required to ask for service – it was rarely available or offered. Our problems continued to the end of our meal, just as I called over the manager to complain (something that I’d never felt compelled to do during scores of previous restaurant reviews). After waiting about 15 minutes for anybody to take our payment, we had to correct a waitress who almost undercharged my credit card by about Dh800.
Yes, Cut’s food is incredible enough to warrant Puck’s name being on the door. It almost justifies the prices you’ll pay, too. Yet the service was so far short of the standards that the price should dictate that you’d feel irked if it occurred in an all-day dining restaurant, not a high-end steakhouse.
As we were walking out, the manager asked us to return for another meal, promising to “look after us” – but after the two hours that preceded, I wouldn’t go back if Wolfgang Puck himself paid me to.
• A meal for two at Cut by Wolfgang Puck, The Address Downtown, Dubai, costs Dh1,495. For more information, call 04 888 3444. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito