The best seat in the house at American Cut at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta is not in the house at all. It is outside, on one of the comfy lounge chairs on the third-floor open-air balcony, under the warmth of heat lamps, with a terrific view of Midtown to the south and away from all the loud noise inside.
The American Cut dinner menu is not available up here at this indoor-outdoor rooftop bar billed as the Regent Cocktail Club, but, apart from a killer Tomahawk steak, when it comes to steakhouse fare, you’re not missing much.
You can still see and be seen up here, as anywhere within American Cut’s ambitious 18,500 square feet of space. And there is a lot to see at American Cut, whether in the first-floor bar and lounge, the 125-seat dining room, bar and private dining rooms on the second level, or up on the top floor. Art deco with a masculine air — sleek ornamentation marked by gold, iron and brick — fills the space, as does a clientele of well-heeled men wearing designer jeans and sports coats.
It’s all quite flashy. Sometimes in a good way, like the tableside preparation of the Plank Smoked Old Fashioned, the standout drink on the cocktail menu. A server will approach with a rolling cart and set about charring a maple plank with a torch. He or she will then set a rocks glass upside down over the plank to collect the smoke, which serves as a garnish. At $17, it is not cheap, but the measurements of Bulleit rye, simple syrup and house-made bitters were spot-on and a humongous cube of house-made (although cloudy) ice kept the smoky drink cold and from diluting too quickly.
More of the theatrical comes with orders like the OG 1924 Caesar salad, also prepared tableside and with storytelling, but really, the performance is stronger for the Steak Knife Wedge, a creative presentation that stacks one crisp wedge on top of another and adorns them both with bacon and blue cheese.
And while that salad is generously sized, the tuna tartare is a more shareable starter that offers palate-awakening flavors from a dressing of lime and lemon juices, soy and teriyaki sauce, creaminess from avocado and nuttiness of pignoli whose freshness was apparent. Or there is the Cornflake Crab Cake — nicely sized, the outside crisp, the inside delicate, moist and filled with the pure flavor of sweet crabmeat — that rests on a bed of slaw encircled with a smoked onion remoulade. The restaurant’s signature chili lobster tasted in excess of fiery heat, although folks inclined toward spice dialed very high might differ.
The American Cut signature item that did impress was the 40-ounce Tomahawk Chop for two ($115). Gorgeously plated and executed to order (medium rare), this 30-day, dry-aged steak was juicy, tender and deeply flavorful. The quality of the meat, sourced from Creekstone Farms, showed.
Less so for a markedly fatty 14-ounce New York strip ($44) ordered medium rare but served medium and with a chintzy portion of chimichurri that lacked grassy herbaciousness; for a 20-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($52) overly seasoned with a pepper-heavy pastrami spice rub; for smoked short ribs that, while moist were barely penetrated with smoke flavor; and even for sliders where both meat and bun were dry and required a swig of expensive wine (because all of the vino is expensive here) after every swallow. These are issues of execution, although it bears mentioning that the only Prime grade cuts of beef at American Cut are the 10-ounce hanger and the Tomahawk. All other beef is a step down at USDA Choice.
Among other proteins, pork chops were burnt to a black char and branzino fillets were soured by a bracing amount of acid.
Only a couple of side dishes did much to improve the main affair. Like creamed spinach with the nutty, earthy undertones of sunchoke and swirled with melty fontina as well as crispy hash browns, the potatoes superbly seasoned with salt. Onion rings were bland. Fries were average. So were mashed potatoes even if they bear the famed name of chef Joel Robuchon. Collard greens were dry, entirely absent of potlikker. Mashed sweet potatoes were dessert-level sweet.
A decadent dessert like the CrackerJack Sundae — an old-fashioned soda fountain glass overflowing with popcorn ice cream, caramel popcorn, peanut brittle, whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce — is some consolation. So is a table-sharing order of monkey bread that brings yet another interactive experience as you pull apart bites of scenty house-made sweet bread.
I’m not sure that’s enough.
American Cut seeks to be a modern American steak restaurant, said John Meadow, founder and president of LDV Hospitality, the New York-based restaurant group that operates other locations in New York, New Jersey and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as Dolce Italian and Corso Coffee at Buckhead Atlanta. Presentation, music and design are areas where American Cut is unique as a steakhouse concept, he said, and it has invested $10 million into the Atlanta property.
Presentation of food and beverage is impressive. Music is loud, and at times, the noise level makes it difficult to hear bartenders, servers and runners, all of whom are friendly, responsive and capable. The design is upscale and distinctive.
But if American Cut wants to compete as a steakhouse in Atlanta, it’s got to get the meat and potato thing down. Otherwise, it risks being merely a swanky bar to grab a drink before or after a dinner eaten elsewhere.
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