Slice Dreams

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Posted September 10, 2009 in Eats

I’m unsure about how I feel about The Royal Cut steakhouse in Ontario and I just ate there twelve hours ago. The Cut is this fascinating paradox, a prime example of the relaxed and unpretentious dining the Inland Empire can offer up, while also highlighting some of the serious chinks in the region’s culinary armor. In many ways the Royal Cut is like the person you dated your second year at college, the one whose faults you nitpicked to death but now you pore over their Facebook page thinking that you may have blown it.

 

I was struck by several aspects of the restaurant when we first arrived. The ambience and décor of the place was chill, with not a hint of pretension.  Even the Tuscan terrace that was grafted onto one of the walls fit, adding to the fun of the place without either being stuffy or too ridiculous. Service here also mirrors the mood; patient, respectful, yet attentive. We were the last ones in the joint for most of our meal but our waiter, Gabriel, made us feel like they were in no hurry for us to leave. The Royal Cut has some of that curiously unsophisticated sophistication that is one of the hallmarks of quality Inland Empire dining.  

 

It’s the food though, and some of the aspects that come with it, that weaken the overall experience at the restaurant. Bread arrived first and begins the mercurial experience that is dining at the Royal Cut. A restaurant that aims to be a high quality steakhouse cannot offer up weak dinner rolls that taste like they came out of a Safeway bag to start up a meal. Next up is the salad bar and as much as I appreciate the chance to make my own mediocre salad, the salad bar is a mistake both in terms of taste and aesthetics; iceberg lettuce and an ugly wooden red cart notwithstanding. If I ran the Cut I would take it out to the parking lot and blow it up at my nearest convenience.  But then something unexpected happened: Tasty food started coming out of the kitchen.  

 

It started with the appetizer, mussels and clams in a white wine reduction sauce done nearly to perfection. Excellent presentation? Check. It’s got that, with an orangey-garlic bread contrasting nicely with the shellfish in the bowl. Delicious sauce? Yeah, got that too. The white wine combined with hints of butter infuses the mussels and clams while at the same time going nicely with the garlic bread. Quality shellfish? It’s a yes on that end as well—the fish melds magically with the sauce.  

 

The entrees completed the remarkable turnaround. A steakhouse should serve up a decent cut of beef or it’s just a dark hole to suck martinis in. The filet mignon at the Royal Cut at least skirts the edge of royalty. If it were a celebrity it would be a D-lister, if royalty an obscure duke. The filet itself is quite nice, very juicy in its medium rare version and lightly seasoned, while the Béarnaise sauce that accompanies it sets off the flavors beautifully. Carrots, broccoli, and zucchini accompany the dish and are rather lackluster, with little thought behind them, but the quality of the filet mignon masks this failure of imagination well enough and in many ways encapsulates the Royal Cut itself—a mishmash of the delicious and the dull.

 

The Royal Cut at 2345 S. Grove Ontario, CA 91761, (909) 947-3322, www.royalcutrestaurant.com. Mon-Fri, 11AM-4PM (lunch); Mon-Thurs, 4:30-9pm (dinner); Fri-Sat, 4:30-9:30pm (dinner); Sun 4-9pm (dinner). AE, MC, V.


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