Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big Day Downtown, Part 2: Try Something 'Moo'

Anyone who knows me knows I love a challenge. So, when the Downtown Halifax Business Commission invited me to participate in their 2nd Big Day Downtown promotion, I couldn't wait to jump on board since I had so much fun last year. I was particularly intrigued by the special twist in this year's theme - Try Something New.

As someone who is always trying new things, I thought it was going to be tough to choose. I decided, since last year I spent my $100 on a bunch of little things, that this time around I would try blowing my entire budget in one place instead.

When I thought of "splurgey" things downtown that I have never done before, I immediately decided I wanted to go out for dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant (Why are you looking at me like that? On this blog, words like "splurgey" and "fancyish" actually exist. Deal with it). But not just any fancy-ish restaurant - a place I had a) never been before, and b) that specializes in food I would not normally eat or have never tried before.

My choice: CUT Steakhouse.

Ok, I realize you carnivores out there are wondering what is so "new" and  "unknown" about eating at a Steakhouse, but the thing is I am NOT a carnivore. I am not a vegetarian either but I am probably as close to being one as you can without actually bestowing the title upon yourself. I like meat, but I am not a huge fan of red meat and do not eat it very much. I try to stick to chicken and/or fish. Considering this, I have never (are you ready for this?) ordered a steak in a restaurant in my entire life.

I know. It's true though. And I have EATEN steak before, just only when it was served to me at other people's homes. I have never made myself one and I have never willingly ordered one for myself.

I have nothing against steak, it just isn't something I am drawn to for some reason that I cannot definitively explain. There is some psychological discomfort for me in eating animals that I think are cute (e.g. cows, sheep, deer, rabbits, and babies of those species in particular - and hence why I have no problem eating chickens or fish - they are not cute. And, yes, I suppose cows aren't particularly cute either, but don't ask me to explain my psychological hang-ups! I don't understand them either!)

Anyway, this is why I chose CUT:

Fancy-ish/expensive restaurant? CHECK
Place I have never eaten before? CHECK
Place that serves food I do not normally eat? CHECK

So, off we went! We were seated at a great table by the window where we could look out on the sun going down and see the sparkly white lights on the trees in front of the building on Lower Water come on after dark.

Our first impressions were pretty much what we expected - very sleek, modern decor and stylish, sophisticated servers (I almost feel bad calling them that because it seems almost beneath them, but I have no idea what their actual titles are). We felt very well taken care of from the moment we walked in - our server helped us decide on drinks (I had a Berry Tom Collins - delish! Very fresh and made with my fav Bombay Sapphire). Then she offered to bring out a tray displaying the various cuts of meat they feature.

As someone who is not a huge meat-eater, I can't say I was super-excited about having a tray of dead-cow slabs laid out in front of me, but I was intrigued so we asked her to bring it out. Even though it was a tad gross, I still found it informative. Since I am not familiar with steak, I had no idea what the difference was between each cut so it was great to have her explain this. (I only wish I got a picture, but I was a tad distracted by the dead animals - sorry, readers).

I decided on the local 10oz striploin and the boy got the Delmonico. The steaks come on their own and you order sides separately (which is one reason why I could see the budget getting out of hand). We decided on asparagus with hollandaise sauce, sweet potato au gratin and two sauces (bernaise for me, horseradish for him).

They brought out two appetizers to enjoy while we were waiting - a plate of veggie sticks with some kind of goat cheese dip, and a bread basket with two kinds of butter (one with maple). Both were delicious and presented very stylishly. The dips were both very flavourful. The steaks came out surprisingly quickly, and after a few minutes the server came right back and apologized for the sides taking longer and as a result they would be no charge! We weren't even anxious yet by that point as we had only had our steaks for about 5 minutes, so this was completely unexpected.

My steak was great - very juicy and tender - but it still wasn't my favourite part of the meal. My sauce was absolutely delicious and so were the sides. The asparagus was cooked perfectly (which is REALLY hard to do - trust me, I have tried at home and it always come out soggy) - a satisfying crunch but still tender. The sweet potato was whipped to perfection and felt like fluffy orange clouds in my mouth.

The portions were surprisingly large, too, considering we were sharing everything but the meat. I probably would have been fine with only a 6oz steak, as it turns out, because I was completely stuffed by the time we finished. We were planning on getting dessert but just did not have the room (to be honest, their dessert menu did not look like anything special anyway). I was quite disappointed we could not even find the belly-space to fit in some delicious cheese from their ala carte...well, cheese cart. I have never eaten anywhere where they have brough you a cart full of cheese as an aperitif! And WHY this is the case, I will never understand because it's a genius idea if you ask me.

On the way out, they capped off our night with a sweet surprise by giving us a small, homemade banana nut loaf to take home (which we promptly ate up the next morning and very much enjoyed). Any place that hands me free desserts on the way out the door is a "must-visit" in my book!

Our total bill (two cocktails + two steaks + two sides + two sauces) came to approximately $120 (not including tip) which I thought was pretty good considering the quality of the service and food.

I am glad I went outside my comfort zone and tried something new. However, I am sorry to say I am not a converted carnivore after my experience at CUT. While, I appreciate that a steak cooked properly can be an enjoyable meal, it just didn't turn me on enough to pull me away from my usual chicken/fish/pasta preferred trifecta. I will probably still stick to white meat most of the time.

I do, however, appreciate the fine ingredients and obvious skill that goes into making the dishes at this restaurant. I also appreciate the friendly and helpful service we received without pretention. I only wish I could afford to eat at such restaurants more often (then again, when it doesn't happen often it kind of makes it more special, no?).

Thank you SO much to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission for allowing me to have this experience - and for encouraging people to have new experiences in downtown Halifax period!

*All photos from CUT website or taken by me


ElleBee said...

I have been wanting to go to CUT forever and am trying to convince my hubby to go for our anniversary this year.

What a great way to spend your Big Day Downtown $$! Looks like you had some delish eats. :)

PS. So glad that I can finally comment on your blog!

Unknown said...

Yay your comment worked! lol. I was using Disqus before and kept having problems with it so I went back to the basic Blogger interface. You should DEFINITELY go for your anniversary - it's a tad pricey but worth it

Anonymous said...

looks quite delish =)

Erica Gabriel said...

Well written Kim :) Its 9am and all I can think about is how I want a steak...

Alison said...

Fun post, Kim. I'm with you - steak is okay, but the sides are the best part! I think they call us sometimes vegetarians.

Unknown said...

Thanks Alison! I like that term "sometime vegetarian". I don't like calling myself a veggie bc I do eat meat and I don't like to limit what I can eat bc it really depends on my mood.

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