Restaurant Review

American Cut Bar & Grill

After a midcourse correction, Marc Forgione's post-Revel return to Jersey fine-tunes steak-house sizzle for the suburbs.

The expertly charred garlic-and-herb-rubbed bone-in sirloin, sliced, with a pan of wild mushroms on the side.
The expertly charred garlic-and-herb-rubbed bone-in sirloin, sliced, with a pan of wild mushroms on the side.
Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager

In 2012, Iron Chef Marc Forgione, with a marketing sense as sharp as his Mohawk haircut, opened his first American Cut steak house at the gleaming new Revel in Atlantic City. While Revel remains a shell (at least till next year), American Cut has become a big-time brand, with two in Manhattan, one in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the latest in suburban Atlanta. Meanwhile, last winter, the LDV Hospitality Group, in which Forgione is a partner, brought the swank brand back to the Jersey shore.

Okay, not that Shore, but the Hudson shore, three miles north of the George Washington Bridge, near the Palisades in Englewood Cliffs. The area is well-to-do, but far from being a magnet for high rollers, it’s greenly suburban, diverse and family centered.

We had completed two visits to the new restaurant—glamorously redesigned from its days as the Assembly Steakhouse—when suddenly, last July, chef de cuisine Quincy Logan was replaced by veteran LDV hand Anthony Russo, who was given the higher title of executive chef.

Russo retooled the menu, keeping its bona fides as a first-class steak house but broadening its appeal, raising the number of salads from four to six, the number of pastas from zero to three, the number of fin-fish entrées from one to three, and planning a family-style, Italian-American Sunday supper to debut soon. “At each American Cut,” Forgione recently e-mailed NJM, “I’ve tried to bring a little bit of local flavor to a few dishes on the menu.” Clearly, Russo has done that.

It’s worth noting that there are two types of American Cut. Since the demise of Revel, only the two Manhattan flagships carry that name. The rest, while still upscale, are more casual, have kids’ menus and are designated Bar & Grill.

When we returned to Englewood Cliffs in September, we were pleased to see some of our favorites still on the menu: the big-flavored, big-value, pastrami-spiced hanger steak (10 ounces, $29). Forgione’s signature dry-aged burger now comes with bourbon onions and fries as well as beer cheese—for $16 instead of $18. Not wanting to blow our cover, we gave a silent sitting ovation to the new sirloin, previously a 14-ounce, boneless New York strip for $45, now an 18-ounce (because cooked bone in for more flavor) garlic-and-herb-rubbed sirloin for $42. Sides have been reduced in price (from $10 to $9), but not in quality. Bacon creamed corn was fresh and terrific. So were the sautéed wild mushrooms and the bracelet-sized onion rings—no need to hunt for the onion inside the crunchy coating.

Russo, a Bloomfield resident, divides his time between Englewood Cliffs and LDV’s Lugo Cucina Italiana in Manhattan. At Englewood Cliffs he added one of his award-winning Lugo creations—meatballs in marinara. They’ve become a hit even though not on the menu. Waiters will “secretly” hip you to what Russo calls “sort of a VIP dish,” but the allure is all in the eating.

These are some of the most tender, flavorful (and large) meatballs I’ve ever had. Russo makes them with beef, pork and veal, “the Neapolitan way,” he says, and serves them under a thick San Marzano tomato marinara. “I finish the sauce,” he happily notes, “with butter and lots of Parmesan.” So many patrons now ask for the always-available $14 duo that Russo calls the fans “the meatball society.”

Englewood Cliffs’ opening menu included a 44-ounce, 28-day dry-aged porterhouse for $109. Maybe its extravagance set the wrong tone. In any case, Russo took it off the menu. But it’s still available, same size, now $94. Just ask.

American Cut’s beef is all Certified Black Angus from purveyor Pat LaFrieda. Steaks are rubbed with salt and pepper and fired to a delectable char in an infrared broiler. They’re finished with a sear on each side in a cast-iron pan while being mopped with an elixir of beef drippings, butter, and fresh garlic and herbs. All our steaks were cooked exactly as ordered. Medium-rare seems to optimize flavor and tenderness.

It won’t be easy, but try not to devour the warm, everything-seeded buttermilk biscuits that come to the table gratis. There are other good things to eat, including a lovely tuna poke, a Hawaiian-style tartare of ahi tuna and avocado chunks sassed with slivers of pickled jalapeño and red onion. A hefty, delicious crabcake was full of well-seasoned lump crabmeat, rolled in cornflakes, pan-seared and served over a tasty remoulade. Brick-pressed chicken with pan-drippings sauce was superb.

Pastas are available in half orders. Linguine Bolognese was meaty and satisfying, but orecchiette with chunks of sausage and broccoli rabe was nearly sauceless and tasted unfinished. Fried calamari, the rings cut too thin, were crisped to virtual squidlessness.

A swaggering steak house needs swaggering desserts. Pastry chef Kristen Moorer, who has been with American Cut since Revel, knows how to do over-the-top for grown-up, not preteen, palates. Her warm, dense, red-velvet brownie with ice cream, hot fudge, marshmallow goo and candied almonds may blur that demarcation and be too much of a good thing, but it is a good thing, nonetheless. Her sweet-and-salty CrackerJack sundae, with peanut brittle inside, is a little more temperate.

But on all three visits, the grandest of finales was Moorer’s imposing layer cake of the day. Whether the cookies and cream, the strawberry lemonade, or the Willy Wonka chocolate, we had at it with forks and quickly reduced it to crumbs.

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