Affordable steak is almost an oxymoron in Shanghai, but THE CUT is a refreshing and clever new way of slinging steaks in China; it chops down the ridiculous pricing as well as the formal-dining fussiness of the typical old-boy steakhouse. Brought to us from the VOL Group, also behind Bar Rouge, Mr & Mrs Bund and Ultraviolet, this is their first move into mall real estate with a brand that they hope to roll out across China.
The menu is dead simple: four ribeye steaks, French fries, a salad bar and a dessert trolley. Steak sets, which include free flow salad and fries, start at just 218RMB and rise to 558RMB (178RMB-458RMB for smaller cuts at lunch).
The priciest offering is the 558RMB 280g Wagyu, from an Australian cow raised on grain for at least 400 days. This steak has a soft rounded, clean aroma which doesn’t linger on the palate and superior tenderness thanks to a marbling score of six. One step down in price is the 280g Australian 300-day grain-fed ribeye (358RMB), which is even milder in flavour but lacks the same buttery mouthfeel. The 280g grain-fed Qingdao (258RMB) is a chewier, toothsome cut but more richly savoury. Finally, the 180g Canadian Prime is a thin cut but it bursts with that rich grain-fed sweetness and direct beefy flavour which is a signature of North American cuts.
Again demarcating THE CUT from the average steakhouse, considerable effort has gone into their salad bar. Wooden bowls of beets with lentils, soft goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts, a bright sunny Moroccan carrot and golden raisin mélange with honey and pistachio crunch and a cuttlefish salad with spliced snow peas and loads of mint – which is especially tasty after sprinkling on some of the accompanying crunchy peanuts and fried shallots – all jostle for attention. You’ll want to beeline for the salad bar soon after fresh bowls come out, otherwise competing diners may dig out all the good bits first.
For the salad-averse, THE CUT’s shoestring hand-cut fries are airy and properly crisp, after going through an array of treatments including a salt bath soak and deep-frying at two different temperatures.
When only your dessert stomach is available for additional stuffing, signal for the staff to trundle over the sweet trolley and choose from the revolving specials. On our visits these included a mildly-sweet ginger tart (35RMB) aromatic with soft spice which was upstaged by a strawberry tart (38RMB) filled with almond cream and a delightful miniature lemon tart (18RMB) on a thick shortbread crust.
A steakhouse specifically built to franchise is a provident strategy in a country where beef consumption is rocketing at unprecedented rates. But THE CUT offers more than just affordable beef. On one of our visits, our entire table ordered only drinks and the free-flow salad bar (98RMB) and while the waitstaff momentarily blinked, every diner left entirely satisfied. With its tightly-curated menu and urbane vibe, THE CUT offers something for everyone – even vegetarians – although personally, we’ll be back for that Canadian Prime.