It’s hard to resist a play on words with a steakhouse that calls itself Top Cut, not only because it offers a superior dining experience but because it’s literally situated above another restaurant. It is truly a cut above the rest(aurant).
All kidding aside, the team behind Top Cut is a familiar one on familiar turf—it’s run by the Paxos Group, helmed by George Paxos. Its other properties include Melt (its downstairs neighbor), Torre and Blue Grillhouse. If you’re familiar with these establishments, you know that Paxos aims for well-designed spaces that transport you out of the everyday. As with Paxos’s other spots, Top Cut was designed by Jeffrey Beers International; however, this time, the mood is more understated than Torre’s staggering tower of tequila and Melt’s romantic drama.
Top Cut opened on August 9 in the space formerly known as Paxos’s Level 3, a lounge-y nightclub that had kept a keen following for many years. It was time for a change; plus, the challenges of running an open rooftop space in the Northeast admittedly take a toll after a while. “It was a concept that really belonged in Miami Beach,” says Paxos. “So we thought: How do we create something that complements Melt? We wanted something very different, and that’s what we accomplished.”
Undoubtedly, Top Cut is a more subdued version of the modern steakhouse, with creamy, neutral tones along with a classic black-and-white motif. But there’s still some drama in those floor-to-ceiling windows offering a panoramic view. The functional elements of the restaurant itself are an attraction—for example, the wine room is fairly visible from the dining space. An impressive display of expensive and/or hard-to-get wines, such as Staglin and a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Screaming Eagle that’ll set you back $5,500, front and center. Oenophiles, take note: There are as many as 5,000 bottles to work through here. “You’ve got to drive about 60 miles or so, at least, to find what we are doing here,” says Paxos.
To be more specific, what they are doing here is offering 100 percent USDA Prime steaks and 100 percent Black Angus steaks. “The cattle is genetically tested and then it’s graded. We have the best American beef we can find,” he says. What’s different about Top Cut is that they offer both wet-aged and dry-aged steaks.
As corporate chef Christopher Heath describes it, wet-aged steaks are center cuts that are vacuum-sealed in their own juices so the meat’s enzymes break down to produce tenderness. The dry-aging process, on the other hand, “concentrates the flavor in the muscle tissue and helps to enhance the taste,” resulting in a more tender cut and a flavor that’s “subtle yet distinct, reminiscent of the way beef was naturally aged in a butcher shop,” says Heath. Many places use wet aging as an alternative to dry aging because it’s typically faster, but Top Cut does it differently—no surprise there. “We prefer to hold the meat in wet aging for an average of 28-35 days—similar to dry aging—for an excellent flavor and tenderness,” he explains.
You may be thinking: Wait a minute, doesn’t Blue already serve tons of steak? Yes, this is true, but Blue is a grillhouse by definition, suggesting an experience that’s more casual and a menu that’s more expansive. “You can have fish and chips and veal parm and all kinds of things,” says Paxos. By contrast, Top Cut is more focused, and only open for dinner. “We’re a very traditional Chicago 1940s steakhouse, with lots of steak and seafood,” says Paxos. (He’s totally right: There’s only one chicken dish and one lamb dish on the menu.) Fans of Blue will be happy to know, however, that the beef receives the same royal treatment as at Blue: extra virgin olive oil, that house-made pepper blend of white, black and Szechuan, which Heath says has a nice “floral nose,” along with the prized, flaky fleur de sel. Seasoning is key.
Top Cut is also bringing in high quality items such as “real Dover sole,” says Heath. “A lot of people offer Pacific Dover sole or Atlantic sole. We have the real deal.” Top Cut also features a rotating selection of East Coast oysters, sushi-grade yellowfin tuna and South African lobster tails, the latter of which impart a sweet, meaty taste. The raw bar menu goes big with the undeniably jumbo U-8 shrimp cocktail, colossal lump crab cocktail, fruits de mer, oysters on the half shell—and a chilled half lobster. Compulsory steakhouse starters such as French onion soup and wedge salad are available, but the menu makes some twists with items such as the bacon steak—a six-inch slab of applewood smoked bacon served steak-like, with grape tomatoes, frisee and Vermont maple syrup. It’s not any old bacon, of course, but from the famous, Wisconsin-based company Nueske’s, which is sort of like the Cadillac of bacon. (So to speak.)
Don’t miss Chef Heath’s Asian Wagyu boneless short ribs, situated over a cabbage and shiso salad. “Wait until you try that. It’s eye-rolling,” says Heath. He wasn’t kidding. The rich-tasting short ribs do what they’re supposed to—fall right off the bone. Except in the case of these particular short ribs, they’re thinly sliced and skewered.
Another aspect of Top Cut that’s perhaps not eye-rolling but justifiably jaw-dropping is the beverage program. Paxos poached general manager/beverage director Grant Parker from Hibiscus restaurant in Dallas. Parker puts to use his extensive beverage knowledge—with thousands of bottles to track and vintages whose quality may naturally fluctuate from year to year. Not ready to commit to an entire bottle? With a wine list as large as Top Cut’s, it’s no
surprise that there are 23 wines by the glass. “There isn’t anything he didn’t buy,” says Parker, referring to Paxos. Many of them are hard to
acquire. “I met the owner of Staglin wines, that’s how I got their wine here,” says Paxos of the top-rated, exclusive Napa Valley winery.
Parker describes Top Cut’s approach as a “New World focus,” which generally indicates that wines produced in the traditional growing regions of Europe and the Middle East, the United States, South America, Australia and New Zealand figure prominently. In case you’re wondering, Cabernet Sauvignon—cabs—are still king. His imperative is to elevate what’s happening behind the bar, which includes details such as using the requisite one-inch by one-inch ice cubes, which melt slowly and therefore don’t quickly dilute a mixed drink. But he also wants to make sure Top Cut’s bar staff utilizes the right vessel for the right drink, illustrated by the restaurant’s beautiful, petite Nick and Nora glasses—named for the characters in the classic film series The Thin Man. Aperitifs and digestifs, which Parker describes as “extremely temperamental,” are destined for these smaller-profile glasses.
It’s mandatory to discuss dessert, although it seems totally superfluous. But that’s precisely why it’s compulsory to order it. Indulgent versions of classics abound—see also salted caramel crème brûlée, New York Style cheesecake with strawberries, and so forth. But take heed: If you dine at Top Cut on your birthday or for an anniversary, save room because the signature carrot cake is going to show up at your table. It is a sight to behold, with a vanilla cream cheese icing, sugar-roasted carrot cream mousse and candied pecans. Like most of what’s available at Top Cut, it exceeds expectations.
2880 Center Valley Pkwy., Suite 625, Center Valley610.841.7100 | topcutsteak.com
Dinner Only: Tues.–Thurs. 4:30–10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4:30-11 p.m.
Ample, throughout the Promenade, along with complimentary valet parking Thursday-Saturday nights.
Recommended, especially on weekends
Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
What to Order:
Steak! The filet and bone-in New York Strip are sure bets; bring your appetite and some serious scratch for the 32-ounce porterhouse. Parker says the cocktail menu is mostly seasonal, but he imagines items such as the cucumber gimlet will remain because people love it so much. Spring $3 for the house steak sauce and you’ll want to ditch the commercial stuff completely. Heath won’t reveal what’s in it. “I usually share but I’m going to be bashful with that one,” he says. Oysters and lobster are stellar choices, but wild-caught king salmon is a real stunner, too, served with whipped herbed potatoes, tomatoes and a saffron broth. “People who come here more than once a week, they usually order the salmon, too,” says Paxos. Other starters of note include the on-trend, spice-roasted shishito peppers. For a good party trick, ask everyone to share; these peppers are sweet and by turns—about one in five—spicy.