Blog of an aspiring foodie

Another chance for Cullen’s

Posted by beer_chris on 28-October-2008

Went back to Cullen’s Wed for Jim’s birthday. I’d been pretty clear in my own mind that after four mixed visits this was it – if the service was still so edgy I wouldn’t be back.

Entering the restaurant didn’t give me hope. It was 6:30, our reservation time, and our table needed to be ‘prepared’. I took the opportunity to visit the really cool bar and take a look at the music venue, Cullen’s Live, which had opened up since our last visit. The bar was relatively busy. I was pleased up see Maudite & Saint Arnold Christmas Ale on tap. With all the TVs going and the little crowd buzzing the bar was downright cool. Cullen’s Live is equally nifty, with a stage big enough for a moderate-size band and a two tiered seating area that was still really intimate – maybe seating 100 people maximum.

I’ll be back to see a show.

I returned to the hostess stand to happily find that my party had been seated. I showed myself the dining room and found our five top seated along the inside wall. The restaurant was maybe 30% full, and nobody was seated in the aisles of the kitchen. I mention this because many of the b4ueat reviews have complained about being seated at these heavy traffic tables in an otherwise empty restaurant. Although those complaints are warranted I tend to think the approach of seating in that manner was to try to show off the kitchen, since those are the only seats where one can get a good view of the brigade in action through the room-length glass wall. Clearly they were responding to this complaint, at least on this evening. Service was still strange – almost nervous. 2 Christmas Ales were ordered and the assistant manager (Chase) came over and introduced himself, and said he was also the wine steward. This was the same person that had dressed down the hostess in front of me a few trips before. I tried to strike up a conversation with him- I noticed his large Texas Tech football ring, and so asked if he was a happy guy after Saturday’s win (over UT). Although he seemed reasonably happy to talk to us, he still seemed uncomfortable – perhaps better said – not relaxed.

He disclosed that his 25’th birthday is in 2 weeks. Wow. That seems awfully young to be running the floor at what appears to be a 500 seat fine dining room.

Menu has changed it’s layout significantly. Dishes are pretty much the same, but are presented in very simple terms – fish, chicken, duck etc. Pizzas have been moved to the appetizer section. This evening the special was a huge tomahawk cut ribeye. Jaime ordered it, and the waiter appropriately warned us it was priced at $115. At 2+ lbs of prime house aged meat this wasn’t all that surprising – but I was happy to be told and not surprised at the end of the meal.

I got the rare prime rib, which was OK. Not nearly as good as last time. Also, my roasted new potatoes were crunchy. I sent them back, and got a replacement set – also crunchy! The waiter asked at the end of the meal if I liked the replacements – I hadn’t touched them – when I told him they too were underdone, he chuckled and said there was a new guy in the kitchen and that they had been after him all night to cook the potatoes correctly.

ME: “So I’m not the only one sending the potatoes back?”

SERVER: “Oh, no. Everyone is!”


The tomahawk steak was awesome. The sides were Ok. We got the grits again, and although less overwhelmed in butter and cream, the stone cut grits were just a hair undercooked. The truffle mash was not ‘truffly’ enough. The butternut squash soup was really nice, filled with bits if duck sausage. The grilled mushrooms were also excellent – the normally pedestrian side wonderful with a mixture of porcini, straw and button mushrooms in a nice uniform mix. Every bite was a medley of mushroom flavors.

Dessert, as usual, was a high point. Raves again for the strawberry symposium and the fudgy brownie, which was topped with a huge browned house-made marshmallow (yum).

At this point, for seated dinner I think it’s back to Perry’s. However, I’m going to give dining at the cool bar a try. Hopefully the full menu is available there. After 5 visits to the main dining room over the past approximately 8 months, I’m left with the frustrating conclusion that Cullen’s is sometimes great, but often hit or miss for one reason or another. At this price point sometimes just isn’t good enough.


One Response to “Another chance for Cullen’s”

  1. Jaime said

    The tomahawk was thrilling in all phases – the visit of the raw one to the table for the specials presentation, the anticipation, the glorious arrival on my plate, and of course the eating!

    It was so fun and felt so special to try it. Of course, I would have been clueless without the Top Chef episode that featured the tomahawk in all its glory last season. I wonder how available this cut is around town at other steak houses?

    Thanks for not flinching when I really wanted it sweetie!
    – Jaime

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