Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Cut Above the Rest?

The Cut
3831 Alton Parkway Suite C
Irvine, CA 92606

Irvine is quickly becoming the burger capital of Orange County. In a city that already touts G Burger, Burger Lounge, Mooyah, The Stand, Mick's Karma Bar, The Counter, Umami Burger, and others, Irvine has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ground beef sandwiched between two buns. Up until this point, the leaders in the clubhouse are The Counter and G Burger. I like the others, but these two spots are in my upper echelon of burger spots in OC. I always get a little giddy trying a new burger restaurant, as I hope it will be able to overtake my latest favorites. I had that same giddiness when we recently tried the latest kid on the block, The Cut.

I have to admit, I had no idea that this restaurant started out as a food truck. My food truck game is a little rusty I guess. The three business partners started up their food truck in 2014, and have won much praise and accolades for their burgers. In 2015 they won a critics choice award from the OC Register as Best Food Truck, and a year later they were nominated as Best Burger in OC. As is the case with most successful food trucks, they eventually achieved their goal of opening a restaurant, and that recently happened for the guys at The Cut, when they set up shop at the Westpark Plaza in Irvine three months ago.

They say on their website that they want to serve simple burgers without any gimmicks. They use free-range, humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free beef in their burgers, which is ground fresh daily in their restaurant. Don't feel like a burger?  Go somewhere else. Just kidding. The Cut also has four sandwiches, a good assortment of starters, and three salads for you to choose from. Prices range between $7 to $12 for starters and burgers run in the $9 to $16 range.

In its former life, this location was home to a Smashburger but is unrecognizable from those dark days. There's an eight-seat bar where I imagine the register might have been during the Smashburger era, an estimated 15 tables in the well-lit, white-bricked walled dining area, and a small patio out front separated from the dining room by a sliding glass door. Refreshingly, this is not a quick service restaurant, instead, you are seated by a host and then order through a server. A nice change for a burger spot at this price point. So now you have the lay of the land here, let's check out the food we consumed on this early evening.

I was a little skeptical when Katie ordered this Hummus ($7) at a burger restaurant, but I have to say I was blown away by this. The smashed chickpeas were surrounding a small pool of cilantro and roasted jalapeno pesto which actually gave off a wonderful burst of heat with each dip of a carrot, celery stick, or toast point. I was also a big fan of the slivered almonds which added a bit of unexpected texture to the smooth hummus. A wonderful start.

We might as well stay with Katie's selections, as she was on a roll. She decided to try the TBD Cutlet ($11). I'm not really sure what the TBD stands for with this sandwich, but it came with plenty of jidori chicken, aioli, fennel slaw, and shaved parmesan. The buns at The Cut are pretty stellar and kept everything together. The chicken was moist and tender, with a good flavor profile to it.  Katie loved that they did not over sauce this, which allowed the chicken to shine.

When I'm at a new burger spot, I usually do not shy away from my classic bacon cheeseburger love, but I decided to go a little bigger for my maiden burger at The Cut. I had the Sweet and Spicy ($12) which did have bacon and pepper jack cheese, along with aioli, arugula, and a honey sriracha sauce. They should have just called this the sweet burger, as there was no spiciness detected in any of the bites I had. The honey sriracha sauce really dominated this burger and neutralized everything else on this burger. Blindfolded I would not have even known that there was bacon, cheese, or anything else on this burger. I'll get one of their other seven burger options on my next visit.

It kind of gets on my nerves when a restaurant calls something poutine when it's really just loaded fries. Don't get me wrong, I love loaded fries as much as the next guy, but poutine is a whole different animal. Poutine is a traditional Canadian dish which uses fries as a base and then tops them with cheese curds and gravy. Something that is very seldom found in Southern California. This so-called poutine at The Cut had sliced brisket, mozzarella cheese, and a very good cilantro chimichurri topping the fries. Even though this was not technically a poutine, I still enjoyed it. The chimichurri was reminiscent of the good ones I've had in Argentine restaurants, but not as oily. I liked the cheese and brisket but had hoped it would have been layered a little better. Near the end of this plate, we were left with a plate of fries, and all the toppings had been consumed. Whatever they call this, it was still worth getting.

There are two dessert options at The Cut, a cookie ice cream sandwich and this one, a Tres Leches Bread Pudding ($6). This was not really what I had anticipated when we ordered this. It was more like a Pizookie than a bread pudding. It came out scalding hot in an iron skillet, with chocolate pieces, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with a salted caramel. The tres leche feel they were going for with this did not really come through, but it was good nonetheless. I would have liked the chocolate to have been more prominent, instead of just in half of the bites. Also a little more ice cream would have been preferred, but I say that with almost every dessert that features ice cream.

The Cut is a welcome addition to what is becoming the OC Capital City of Burgers, Irvine. Is it the best we have had in Irvine, no, but it was very solid. I might change my mind if I have a different burger on my next trip here, but for now, The Cut still ranks behind The Counter and G Burger in my opinion. The sides were impressive, especially the hummus, which I packaged up to go, and ate the next day. As I said earlier, I liked that this was a full-service restaurant, as it was a nice change of pace from how other burger spots are operating these days. Service was stellar, and our server gave us excellent recommendations and kept tabs on us all throughout our visit. Welcome to Burger Town USA. I think The Cut is going to fit right in. 

Out of five ribeyes, (which happens to be my favorite cut of beef), five being best to zero being worst, The Cut gets 3 ribeyes.

For more information about The Cut, head over to their website here:

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