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One CUT above

Liz Feltham has no beef with Halifax's new high-end steakhouse.



Vegetarians, you may want to look away. This review is all about a pure, unabashed love of beef. CUT opened last November, with parent company RCR (Tug's Pub, Onyx) heralding the steakhouse as "a new dining experience different than anything else in Halifax."

The restaurant is two separate dining rooms with distinct identities: Downstairs is the Grill at CUT, featuring tasting plates and an open kitchen. Upstairs houses CUT proper.

There's no doubt CUT is stylish. Plenty of wood, a shimmery curtain dividing the room, thick white linens on the table and a hip backlit bar give an air of luxury while maintaining that "manly" steakhouse feel.

Featured beef includes dry-aged USDA prime, Kobe and local beef: Butchery is done on the premises. The menu serves as a primer on beef and the aging process, and a server circulates with slabs of raw beef on a plate to show some of the cuts.

There's a high server-to-guest ratio here: We're assigned two (one each!) and they are consummate professionals, as you would expect in a restaurant as high-end as this.

Passing on some of the more exotic drink offerings (special imported steakhouse stout, $18 a glass), we enjoy one of the 100-plus wines offered. As we wait, we take in the other little details CUT has taken care of. A trio of Hawaiian salt crystals sits in dishes on each table, the breadbasket has three kinds of house-made loaves and crudites with blue-cheese dip arrive in shot glasses.

A small parade of waitstaff arrives with our starters---the beef carpaccio ($12) and broiled marrow bone ($14). The carpaccio is sliced paper thin, drizzled with wasabi aioli and enhanced by a small array of greens and herbs. Marrow bones, enjoying a renaissance of sorts after falling out of favour, have surely never been done this sumptuously: broiled, topped with black-truffle cheese and served with brioche crisps. On the side are two tiny jars of jam, black mission fig and apple cinnamon. I dip my tiny spoon into the bone, spread the marrow and cheese mix on brioche, top it with each jam in turn---it's phenomenal.

For our main courses we've both chosen the 35-day dry aged beef: the delmonico (16 oz, $49) and surf & turf ($47). In steakhouse style, the sides are extra. Bordelaise and bearnaise sauces ($3 each) are expertly executed and cut pommes de terre ($7) take mashed potatoes to a good place.

We eagerly cut into our beef---the main attraction. The delmonico tastes like a fifty dollar steak: Marbled with fat that melts away during cooking, it's tender and almost buttery. It's well seasoned---charred outside and pink inside.

The surf and turf is an 8oz Manhattan cut (think fat striploin) topped with three shrimp the size of my head (in industry parlance, U6, meaning it takes fewer than six of these to make a pound of shrimp). The shrimp are surprisingly sweet, not as dry or devoid of flavour as usually happens when upsizing shellfish. The steak, however, is undercooked---ouch. It's not a misstep a restaurant of this calibre should be making. I mention this to our server, who immediately apologizes and offers to return it, but we keep it.

The desserts look amazing. There's a splendid cheese and port selection and coffee comes in individual French presses, but we are far too full. As we're leaving, we're given a mini loaf of banana bread.

Our total bill, tax and tip, has come to almost $250. Expensive, yes. But you pay for the whole experience, not just the food, and CUT puts on quite a show.

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