Going to a steakhouse these days almost feels like taking a trip down memory lane to the days where any sort of special date or occasion called for a dirty martini, a shrimp cocktail and a bigger than necessary porterhouse.
In times where tasting menus, farm-to-table and fusion dining experiences get all the buzz, there’s something comforting and nostalgic about the simplicity of an old-school steak meal. And if nostalgia and a juicy piece of meat is what you’re after, perhaps a visit to Wolfgang by Wolfgang Zwiener is exactly what you need.
Taking up a premium space on the 8th floor of the swanky PAFC Mall in Futian, Wolfgang by Zwiener checks all the boxes when it comes to delivering an authentic steakhouse dinner experience. Comfy leather chairs and white table cloths? Check. Vintage red sofas and dark wood panelling and furniture? Check. Frank Sinatra overhead and photos of politicians on the wall? Also check. Apart from a glass wine cellar that gives some sort of lightness to the place, and the juxtaposition of its location in a bright and modern mall, everything else feels like a xerox copy of its 20 or so other locations.
A one-page menu lists all dishes available, ranging from appetizers, salads, soups, to meats and sides. Although it may not seem extensive enough, it contains all the classics and even some specials that over the years have helped the restaurant differ from its more-famous namesake competitor, Wolfgang Puck.
To get things started, we went with the restaurant recommendation and got a Chopped Salad and two appetizers, the thick-cut bacon and the crab cake. The Chopped Salad is essentially an everything salad, almost like going to your fridge, picking all the veggies available, chopping it julienne, and throwing it in a bowl with some dressing. It’s a decent salad, but nothing special. The thick-cut bacon is a delicious mix of salty, sweet, and umami flavors, and since you can hardly go wrong with bacon, this is a good appetizer to order and get your stomach used to the ridiculous amount of meat that’s to come. The crab cake is definitely something to write home about here. Big chunks of crab meat in a lightly floured cake, served with a simple lettuce salad and tartar sauce hit all the notes, and the size is not bad either – which can be said for all dishes, which are family-style and made to share.
Big crab cake filled with generous chunks of crab meat
Now to the reason anyone goes to a steakhouse: juicy, tender slabs of meat. One thing that sets Wolfgang apart from most is its beef aging technique. As explained by the extremely attentive and friendly general manager, the restaurant uses the dry aging process, which means that the beef is stored at a refrigerated temperature of 1 to 2 Celsius for up to 220 days, depending on the cut. This technique allows the meat to tenderize and build all the flavor using its own natural juices.
The dry-aging locker
We started with the medium-rare Sirloin, dry-aged for 80 days, and like all the meats, served in a sizzling hot plate – and we mean hot, as in 104 Celsius hot – glazed with meat drippings, and already cut to the bone. Although juicy and perfectly cooked, it tends to toughen up really fast if not eaten immediately, as the plate continues to cook it past its medium-rare sweet spot.
The tenderloin, dry-aged for also 80 days lives up to its fame and simply melts in your mouth. This is probably the cut that best benefits from the dry-aging process, as it leaves a lingering and pleasant dairy taste in your mouth without compromising the natural flavours of the meat. Baste it with some drippings, add some salt and peppers, and it’s heaven in your mouth.
Finally moving on to the star of the show, the massive rib eye steak is aged for a whooping 220 days, is what makes meat lovers flock to this place. Upon first bite, it’s clear this is no ordinary piece of steak, as it delivers a very strong, lingering fermentation flavor. Almost like blue cheese. Although probably not something that will please everyone, this piece of meat carries one of the most intriguing mixes of aroma, texture and taste we’ve experienced in a long while. It’s cooked and cut to perfection, as tender as it could possibly be, and the ultimate representation of a restaurant that has mastered the skills of aging and preparing a steak.
The sides, unfortunately, are not as noteworthy as the steaks. Asparagus served al dente are perfectly fine, and the onion rings are crispy and flavorful, but everything else seems to suffer from lack of seasoning or textural flaws. The cream of spinach could really use some salt and pepper, and the mashed potatoes are much too liquidy and grainy, almost resembling the microwave variety.
When it came to the desserts, it felt like you were being transported from a fancy and stuffy environment straight to a roadside diner, in the best way possible. Everything was simply gigantic, packed with familiar and comforting flavors, and served with a huge side of house-made whipping cream. The tiramisu has the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, the traditional pecan pie is equal parts tender and crunchy and intoxicatingly sweet, and the apple pie – oh my god the apple pie – just seals the deal and makes you want to come back again and again just to finish you meal with another bite of this massive (in size and flavor) piece of goodness.
Wolfgang manages to bring all the elements and flavors of a traditional American-style steakhouse to Shenzhen without losing any of its authenticity. Although some dishes suffer from lack of originality or the outdated routine of salting your own food at the table, the overall quality and precision of what was served certainly outweigh the negatives and provide an excellent choice for those looking for a ‘treat yourself’ meal.
See listing for Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.
[All images courtesy of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse]