Next Steakout



#26 Larsen's - Encino

Rating: 4.25 cows


What better way to say goodbye to 2012 and ring in the new year than with a big juicy steak? Our thoughts exactly. For New Year's Eve 2012 we headed out to Larsen's Steakhouse in Encino for our last meal of the year.

Like most finer establishments, Larsen's featured some special entertainment for the evening, serenading diners with live music that complemented the ambiance quite nicely. Like any good New Year's Eve party however, there was still some kitsch to be had with plastic party hats and favors.

We sat down and were handed menus, bound in faux-leather with everything on a single sheet of paper. As with most steakhouses, the lights are dim and while it's certainly more difficult to read a menu than in, say, a Danny's, it's still quite feasible. That didn't seem to stop Larsen's from creating lighted menus to further enhance the mood. The menus are backlit in a soft bluish light with EL panels, (remember those Timex IndiGLO watches?) All this was alright with us, so long as they didn't skimp on the steak to pay for the lighted menus.

The wait staff was courteous and attentive, and handled our larger party of eight quite well. The prices at Larsen's are on the higher end of the scale, but not quite the tip of the top. Steaks range from about $40-60, with a $15-per-oz NY Wagyu also available. We ordered a variety of cuts, including the filet, porterhouse, NY, and Ribeye along with an assortment of sides.

The steaks were excellent, with superior flavor, texture, and cooked to perfection. At this level it becomes hard to distinguish between various experiences, but we agreeed that Larsen's is indeed a force when it comes to a high-end steakhouse. Everyone was satisfied, and we would all return here in an instant.

We ended our meal with a selection of desserts that were also expertly prepared and equally as delectible. One of us ordered a hot fudge sundae, and while not on the menu, the waiter told us he'd make it happen, and he delivered on that promise. Because of the added entertainment fee for New Year's Eve ($30/person), this was our most expensive Steakout so far.

Larsen's was a fantastic meal to close out the year, and we can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for us…

Larsen's Photos


#25 Cut - Beverly Hills

Rating: 4.5 cows


Wolfgang Puck's CUT had for 14 Steakouts been our favorite restaurant so far in just about every way possible. The ambiance, service and delicious steak combined into a nearly perfect dining experience. So when we were thinking about revisiting a previous location for Steakout XXV, it made for a very likely choice, though not an entirely unanimous one.

Our other top-notch steakhouse has been Mastro's, a restaurant that although it lacks the elusive Michelin Star, is every bit as capable s CUT in delivering an incredible dining experience. For us, while the standard steaks were about as good as CUT, the difference maker was the Wagyu—though it was certainly cheaper than CUT, the Mastro's variety just wasn't quite as good.

But back to CUT. There were two challenges facing Mr. Puck this time around. The first was our expectations, which were understandably high—not only was CUT our favorite overall steakhouse, but it was clearly the most expensive as well. This time around our tolerance would be tested, and our anticipation was high. The second challenge was that our group had swelled from 5 to 9 people, a formiddable task for any restaurant.

The decor had changed significantly since our last visit, and we learned that every 18 months or so they go through a minor remodel to freshen the look. The service was just as good as we remember, courteous and highly professional. Apart from the decor, one thing we noticed right away was that prices had been modestly increased for their standard steaks. We decided to pass on the Wagyu this time around.

When the steaks arrived, they were plated just as before and looked every bit as tasty as we had remembered. Mr. Puck knows how to cook a steak, there's no doubt about that. But we all couldn't help coming away with the feeling that this time just wasn't quite as good as the last. In fairlness to CUT, these steaks were still fantastic and wonderfully delicious, and easily in the highest calibre of all the steaks we've tried on this ongoing adventure.

And whether it was our largeer party or our impossibly high expectations, the end result was a less-than-satisfied feeling. Perhaps it was quite literally impossible for CUT to live up to our expectations, and while that may in fact be true, it doesn't change the way we all felt, and the fact remains that we paid more money for steaks that were (if only quite modestly) inferior to the last time we were there. So our ratings, while still excellent, do reflect this.

Perhaps this phenomenon will befall other steakhouses that we return to, only time will tell.

Cut Photos


#24 Wolfgang's - Beverly Hills

Rating: 3.75 cows


When you hear about a restaurant in Beverly Hills named Wolfgang's, you might wonder if Mr. Puck really needed to open another restaurant in Los Angeles. We'll have to leave that question for another time, because Wofgang's is the eponymous steakhouse of Wolfgang Zwiener, though the similarities of the name are not lost on either of them.

Situated on Canon Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills, the atmosphere at Wolfgang's is inviting as it is unassuming. A large bar greets you when you walk in, with a few flatscreen TVs tuned to ESPN or the Sport of the Day. Behind the bar area sits the main seating area of the restaurant, and while it's separated from the bar, it feels like one large space. This probably helps, since the place itself isn't remarkably large. The bar is well-stocked and even carries a quality gin (Plymouth) aside from the Sapphire and Tanqueray staples.

We sat at a large round table, which was just perfect for our group of 6. The waitress seemed to be a bit frazzeled at first, but we later found she was more than up to the task and did an excellent job.

The prices at Wolfgang's, to say nothing of its prime location, suggest a top class dining experience, on par with the best of the best. The menu features a tantalizing 16-oz filet for $48 as well as a porterhouse for two that runs $45/person. There's also an 8-oz filet and NY Strip. Curiously absent was a Rib Eye, but Wolfgang's instead served both lamb and veal chops.

The most surprising item on the menu was the "Sizzling Canadian Bacon" appetizer. Dave had a similar item at Peter Luger in New York (where Wolfgang Zwiener cut his teeth), and after some ribald joking about Zwiener's meat, we found ourselves ordering "a round of bacon for the table." If you've never ordered a round of bacon for the table, give it a try, it's liberating and delicious. The bacon was a revelation. Why more steakhouses don't offer meaty strips of bacon as standalone appetizers we'll never know, but thank you to Mr. Zwiener for filling this unmistakable gap. Other steakhouses are on notice: start serving more bacon, Canadian or otherwise.

The other appetizers we got were the wedge and caesar salads and the lobster bisque. All were good, but nothing was a standout, except perhaps for the bisque, which was very tasty.

So let's get to the meat. The steaks arrived with a nice sear on the outside. The 16-oz filet was extraordinary, and it was cooked to perfection. The flavor was ample, though a touch more seasoning would have really elevated this steak to another level. The porterhouse turned out to be a tale of two steaks. The filet portion was quite good, while the strip seemed a bit lacking. The steak arrived pre-cut, and while it was good overall, we found the size to be on par with what similar restaurants would serve as a porterhouse for one. Given the price, we were expecting more. The 8-oz filet and strip were both very good as well.

The side dishes of french fries, creamed corn, broccoli, and lobster mac-and-cheese were good. The fries were billed as steak fries, and while we take issue with how they were advertised given their size, they were nonetheless very tasty. We topped off the evening with an ice cream sundae which was very satisfying.

Wolfgang's is a very good place to eat. The atmosphere and service are great, as is the food. The steaks here are solid, but they don't seem to quite reach into the upper echelon, which is perfectly fine; we just wish the prices were about $5-10 lower to compensate. If you happen to be in the area and have a chunk to drop on a steak, you will not be disappointed. However, in our humble opinions, you'd do better to take that cash down the street to Cut or Mastro's

Wolfgang's Photos


#23 Musso & Frank Grill - Hollywood

Rating: 2.5 cows


When one thinks of old Hollywood, Musso & Frank captures the time period perfectly.  But has its own reputation preceded it?  We've generally heard good things about this restaurant and were excited to go, but we're seasoned diners and we know when something isn't as good as it should be. 

The atmosphere at Musso and Frank's evoked the classic Hollywood you see in the movies. The restaurant opened in 1919 and they proudly wear that history on their sleeves, all the way down to the bartenders who are there to make what you ask, and to not waste much time in doing so. Their demeanor leaves something to be desired, but it's all part of the charm, remember? Musso and Frank's is known for their martini, but the purported "best martini in Los Angeles" is also probably the most inelegantly-made drink you're likely to find. The lack of artistry is apparently the trademark.

The table service we received was passive, nonexistent, and just lacking in every which way. The food took a long time to arrive. It took half an hour to hail someone down to get the dessert menu. It took about that long again to get the check.  Did we mention that we were a party of twelve?  Is it possible for the wait staff to avoid us entirely? We are no strangers to the service difficulties inherent in serving large parties, but details like that are what separate the good from the great. And while our expectations for Musso & Frank's were not on par with Wolfgang Puck's Cut or with Mastro's, their failings in this area cemented their place in the lower half of the places we've tried. Bottom line: there is no excuse for the wait staff to not pay us attention even if they cannot control the speed at which the food arrives. Service is more than speed. 

But really, who cares about sub-par service if the food is amazing?  Too bad it wasn't.  Steaks were ordered all around from Porterhouse to Filet to Strips. The cooking varied, and most steaks were a bit overdone, with one of them leaning on the medium-well fence which is awfully close to steak treason. This was unfortunate, but as a large party it was impractical for time and other reasons for us to return our food. The quality of the meat was good however, so the steaks were still tasty, though not as tasty as they should have been, sadly. The side dishes were unremarkable, but certainly not bad. A side order of fries actually came undercooked. Undercooked. 

Needless to say our experience at Musso & Frank's left much to be desired. But you get the feeling that the entire lack of apology in the experience is part of the vibe. They do their thing and you're free to accept or reject it. There's no question this restaurant has staying power, but we have to wonder how much they are riding on the coattails of their previous success. You either like it or you don't, and nobody will try to convince you otherwise.

Musso & Frank Photos


#22 The Buggy Whip - Westchester (closed)

Rating: 3 cows


The Buggy Whip has been on our list of steakhouses to try for a while and we thought it would be a great place to start to our new year of reviewing steakhouses. The Buggy Whip is a steakhouse from an earlier decade, featuring dark decor, red booths and in their main dining room paired with a live piano player (Wed-Sat). As you enter the Buggy Whip you are greeted with several framed magazine articles listing the Buggy Whip as one of the top 10 steakhouse in Los Angeles. Obviously, we saw this as a good sign and we anxiously awaited our steak dinners.

Our visit to the Buggy Whip was on a Sunday night which sadly meant no piano player and also that half of the restaurant was closed. We were sat in the main dining room at a long table pulled up against a half moon both to fit our party of 11. As we ordered drinks we discovered the bar was very much a “no thrills” type of bar. The bartender was not familiar with their wines and in addition nothing was available on draft. The drinks that we did order, however, were priced very well as we soon found out was a trend for the entire menu.

Together. we ordered a variety of steaks including porterhouses, rib-eyes and filets. Each steak came with either a house salad or a cup of their clam chowder in addition to a potato side. Most of our group chose the house salad which arrived with an odd green “Greek Goddess” dressing. Despite the color of the dressing the salad was good but nothing spectacular. Those that received the clam chowder found it oddly spicy and left them expecting much more in their clam chowder. Despite having a large group our steaks all arrived around the same time. The steaks looked delicious and each person paired their steak with a large baked potato topped table side with your choice of butter, sour cream or chives. Upon cutting open our steaks we found that all of our steaks were not cooked evenly. All steaks were ordered medium-rare but only some portions were the desired medium-rare. The rest of the steak was over cooked to medium. In particular, the porterhouse suffered the most while the rib-eye was probably the most evenly cooked of all the steaks.

The resounding verdict of the steaks was that they were good but nothing spectacular. The steaks were seasoned with salt and pepper but despite the potential, none of that seasoning penetrated the surface of the steak. Only the rib-eye was served with a side of an onion based gravy, which was never used as to not spoil the steak. Despite the size of the steaks listed on the menus (22oz Rib-eye, 28oz Porterhouse) everyone managed to finish their steaks without a problem. As par for the course, we even ordered several deserts which like the steaks were found to be appetizing but not anything special.

In the end we gave the Buggy Whip an average rating of 3 cows with the high votes coming in on the rib-eye and the lower votes coming in with the filet. It is worth noting that the special of the night was two 1.25lb lobster tails for $40, and that the menu of the Buggy Whip offers a lot of different seafood selections. Some of our guests who dined with us ordered fish for their dinner and found it very delicious. This leaves us to believe that perhaps the Buggy Whip is no longer destined to be a great steakhouse in Los Angeles but instead more of a seafood focused restaurant. Perhaps sometime when we are not on a quest for steak, we may stop by the Buggy Whip to taste their seafood.

Buggy Whip Photos

As of September 2013, the Buggy Whip has closed its doors after 64 years in business. Although the steaks did not live up to today's top quality steakhouses, it's always sad to lose an historical icon. Rest in peace, ye olde buggy.