Next Steakout

5 Sept 2017

La Boucherie on 71


#14 North Woods Inn - Rosemead

Rating: 3 cows


If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you've probably seen one of the three Clearman's North Woods Inn restaurants. They're the ones built to look like a log cabin, with snow on the roof year-round—certainly something that stands out in southern California. The interior follows the same design theme, featuring a very informal setting with unpainted wooden tables and floors, animal heads on the wall, and signs encouraging you to throw your peanut shells on the floor. You could see a patron here wearing fringed leather and a coonskin hat and it wouldn't seem at all out of place.

Our evening started off on the wrong foot, as we were seated almost 20 minutes later than our reservation. Admittedly we were a party of 12, but the reservation was made weeks in advance and the restaurant was far from full. This was compounded by the fact that it took an additional 8 minutes after being seated before any wait staff came out to talk to us.

Fortunately, things improved from that point. Our waitress was very competent, and the drink and food orders all came out in a timely manner. The menu featured several steaks, including "steak chunks on skewer" and a "lumberjack steak," but our group ordered more traditional cuts: filet mignon, ribeye, new york strip, and porterhouse. The menu also deserves a special Steakout nod for stating "we do not recommend cooking steaks past medium as they tend to lose their flavor." We couldn't agree more!

This review would be remiss if it did not mention the cheese bread, which is included as an appetizer with every dinner. Not only is it cheesy, warm, and delicious, but you can eat as much as you want. They will even bring you out a whole basket to take home with your leftovers. You're likely to have other leftovers, because in addition to the cheese bread every dinner also includes two different salads, a rice pilaf, and a baked potato, all of which come in generous portions.

The steaks themselves were merely average. The weakest point may have been the the cuts—most of the meat had a lot of fat on the edges. Including one of the filets, which is highly unusual for that cut. The quality of the meat was average; not particularly juicy, tender, or flavorful but also not dry or tough. The steaks were cooked on a grill without very much seasoning.

North Woods Inn is a restaurant that lives on its rustic theme and provides a great deal of quantity at the expense of quality. This is not to say that the food is bad—it is merely unremarkable, with the exception of the delicious cheese bread. The prices, ranging from $24 - $36 for steaks, are reasonable for the amount of food that you receive. It is certainly worth at least one visit to enjoy the frontier lodge theme, but come hungry - and be sure to take home some cheese bread.

North Woods Inn Photos


#13 Mastro's - Beverly Hills

Rating: 5 cows


Through our monthly travels to various steakhouses, there has been one location mentioned time and time again by friends of ours: Mastro's. As it were, Mastro's appeared to be the overall favorite and frankly, we were starting to feel the pressure. After twelve steakouts, it was high time we hit up this popular place and decided on the Beverly Hills location.  

The ambiance of Mastro's is dark and intimate, but with enough light to make it comfortable and welcoming. The downstairs appears to be sectioned off for larger groups or private parties while the upstairs for the remaining dining patrons. There's a bar on both floors, always a welcome sight, and live music on the top floor. We decided that the subtle recordings of Frank Sinatra during the musician's break were more pleasing to our ears while stuffing our faces with cow, but since we were far enough away, it wasn't a real bother.  

Mastro's menu is extensive and features enough appetizers and starters to please any palate. The customizable seafood tower is a definite highlight but can certainly add to the food bill quickly ($75 for two). For steak, the majority of us went for the medium rare double Porterhouse to split, which cost $88 (or $44 per person). The double sized steak was cut for us and portions of each section served on our individual plates.  But wait, you can't dig in just yet! The appetizers we ordered arrived immediately following and were also plated one at a time to each of us.  We were worried that our meat would be cold by the time the appetizers were served, but thankfully our concerns were for naught. The porterhouse was divine, cooked to perfection with just the right amount of seasoning.  

The appetizers were equally impressive (there are twelve types of potato sides on the menu), each one large enough for sharing. The winner and definite must-have was the Alaskan King Crab Black Truffle Gnocchi which was absolutely delicious. Also ordered was the Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli. All were very good, easily the best side dish selections of any place we've tried.  

Having unanimously enjoyed CUT, Mastro's had a lot to live up to and by the end of the meal we were all struggling to figure out where we stood. Where Cut succeeded in its service and cuts of meat, Mastro's succeeded in its side dishes and offerings, while serving up an equally delicious steak. The only disappointment here was the Wagyu steak which sold out just before we could order it. But because Mastro's was excellent despite that, we'd be very happy to return another time. And if the Wagyu is sold out again, well… I don't think we'd mind all that much either.   

Mastro's Photos



#12 Smoke House - Burbank

Rating: 2.5 cows


We chose The Smoke House in Burbank mainly for its historical significance. The place goes back to the 40s, and “The Tonight Show” was hosted there in 1956. That, partnered with a great name promoting meat goodness we though it might be a reasonable priced steakhouse paired with great meat.

For this steakout, we had the largest dining party thus far. The Smoke House handled multiple reservation number changes without a problem over the phone. One request was made to have a separate table for some of our guests which consisted of a newborn and family. When we got there, they didn't have a separate table and everyone was set up on one long table with more seats then requested. It seemed that only the original reservation request was honored. We had no problem making it work for our needs as the place was not crowded. On a busy night, this perhaps could've been a problem. Our hostess was cheery and had a fun attitude joking around with us. However, when we asked her questions about the menu's items she gave us very vague and sometimes incorrect answers. However, that is what waiters are for. We ordered several Ribeyes, Porterhouses, and New York Strips. A special on Thursday nights is a bacon wrapped petite filet for $15. Not a bad deal but it was much too small for any of us to choose as an entree, however some of our guests did.

Our steaks, when they arrived, were simply placed on the plate with the sides. Nothing fancy, no garnishes, etc. Once we cut into the steaks we discovered that several were overcooked. One guest's bacon wrapped filet's bacon was overcooked to being almost completely burnt. Following up to improperly cooked steaks would be the taste, which in a word was “bland”. This was quite a disappointment for all of us as we were hoping for some significant flavor. Our searching for a tasteful juicy bit of steak was ultimately left unfulfilled.

To The Smoke House's credit, their menu has a lot of non-steak options and we were told their lunch business is very good. While we can't solidly recommend The Smoke House for their steaks, it may be worth a lunchtime visit to try another (non-steak) menu item.

Smoke House Photos


#11 Taylor's - Koreatown

Rating: 3.75 cows


Every restaurant has its own personality, but there are definitely archetypes out there which bring familiarity and comfort. There's the family restaurant with kitschy crap all over the walls. There's the Chinese restaurant with pink tablecloths and semicircular brass-colored sconces. Steakhouses have one too: red naugahyde booths, dark wood paneling, low lighting, and the conspicuous absence of windows of any kind. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Taylor's.

Taylor's has been a Los Angeles institution since 1953, and the decor hasn't changed a bit since it opened. The seating area is cozy, and the 6 of us sat nicely around a circular table. It was dark, which can certainly be a good thing but this was teetering on the edge of what we thought was tolerable. We started with appetizers—the onion rings were edible but clearly frozen and tasted rather bland. The Ranch dressing was practically necessary here. The split-pea soup (of the day) and crab cakes were decent but certainly nothing to write home about.

The steaks were definitely very decent. They were cooked well; the chef clearly knew the difference between medium and medium-rare. The steaks were seasoned appropriately, enough to enhance the flavor but not overpowering. The steaks were sized adequately, but the flavor was lacking more than we'd like. It wasn't that they were bad, it was just that they weren't remarkable. The price was certainly good; the side dishes came with the steak so we certainly didn't break the bank. The wait staff was a little hard to understand, though they had clearly worked there for many years. Overall it was a good meal, but it's not a place that inspired us to really want to return. If you happen to live in the area though, this might be a great neighborhood place to stop by now and again.

Taylor's Photos


#10 Cut - Beverly Hills

Rating: 5 cows


Once in a great while there occurs an experience that changes you. For better or worse, it permanently alters your view of the world and leaves an indelible mark of that place and time. It has been over a year since we began our journey of steak, and while that journey is far from over, it is hard to imagine any experience eclipsing the one we had at Wolfgang Puck's landmark Cut in Beverly Hills.

Cut is located in the Beverly Wilshire hotel, right at the crossroads of decadence and indulgence. Cocktails at the adjacent Sidebar were accompanied by an array of snacks including olives, candied almonds, and homemade potato chips. Their selection is ample but not exhaustive, and their bartenders are knowledgeable and more than competent with a shaker.

Across the entryway from the bar is the main dining room for Cut. The split-level seating area is light-colored with wood floors, overblown photographs of celebrities with indifferent glances adorn the walls and the menus. The wait staff is professional and polite; all five of our steaks were plated simultaneously by five different people. Our waiter greeted us with the sort of friendly tone you might expect from the Olive Garden, asking us if we'd been there before. That's not to say that he wasn't up to the task, however. The thing about Cut is that it really lacks any sort of pretense. The atmosphere is the epitome of casual elegance, and about the only hint you may be sitting next to one of the people immortalized on the walls are the prices on the menu. The place is rather loud, much more than you'll find at Morton's or Ruth's Chris, but it's for a good reason: everyone is thoroughly enjoying themselves and certainly their food, and it's just a very comfortable place to be. Steaks begin in the $40 range and go up from there.

Cut is not a place to go if you are even the slightest bit nervous of whether you will get every penny's worth out of your meal, or if the steak is really worth twice what you paid at Ruth's Chris. And the thing is, if you go in with the right attitude you're likely to appreciate it all the more.

Our waiter brought by a sampling of the steaks they had on offer, pointing out the intense marbleization on the Australian Wagyu NY steak. Our eyes widened as we pondered the price per ounce and came to the conclusion we should order a sixth steak to share, partially in honor of our comrade Brock who was unable to join us for what could easily be described as one of the most satisfying dining experiences any of us has had.

Among us five we ordered five different steaks: the 16oz bone-in filet, NY sirloin, 16oz boneless ribeye, 20oz bone-in ribeye, and the 8oz filet. Rounding out the list was the Wagyu, of which we each enjoyed a tantalizing 1.2 oz. What do you say about steaks that are nearly perfect? All were ordered medium-rare, and all arrived cooked to absolute perfection, save the 16oz ribeye which was a little more medium than rare. The tops of the steaks were blackened and seasoned just enough to flavor but not overpower the taste of the cut. The cuts themselves were expertly sized in both shape and thickness. They offered an array of mustards to accompany the steaks, but unless you came for the mustard (note: you did not come for the mustard), there's just no point. To say the steaks tasted fantastic was an understatement. They were all spectacular, especially the Wagyu.

If you've never had Wagyu before, you may be wondering if it's really that much better than an "ordinary" steak. There's no question the Wagyu is a taste apart from the other cuts, and if you like steak you should probably make a point of at least trying some if you get the chance. You don't have to worry about not being able to taste the difference. The question is whether you're in a position to indulge yourself so decadently. If I were you and found myself in such a position, I would not pass it up.

We ordered 3 side dishes for the table, and both the sauteed spinach and mac & cheese were terrific. Truth be told the french fries were good, but easily the weakest part of the meal. We declined the dessert menu, but were brought a selection (six, oddly enough) of house made confectionery including custard, toffee & almonds, and of course chocolate.

About the only blemish on the evening came at the very end while one of us waited for his car to be returned from the valet. It took them about 40 minutes to find the car, and they did do the right thing by forgiving the $12 valet fee. But after what we paid inside, we expected much more after stepping outside.

When we started this journey more than a year ago, I don't think we thought there could be an experience so amazing that it would warrant a 5-cow rating across the board. That all changed after dining at Cut. When giving our ratings, barely a second thought was needed. Even with considerations for the price, we have nothing but the highest of praise for this fine establishment. Well done Mr. Puck, it was truly our pleasure.

Cut Photos