Peter Vauthy, chef/partner at Red the Steakhouse, greets me with the usual hellos, then asks the question that looms like a giant invisible bovine in the room. "Want to see my meat?"
Vauthy isn't being fresh. He just knows I came to Red to see and taste his Kobe beef.
What's all the fuss? Any steakhouse worth its bones has Kobe on the
menu..or does it? Most restaurants in Miami and around the United
States serve Kobe-style beef, which means steak from Wagyu
cattle. Wagyu cattle can be raised anywhere. Only Wagyu raised in Japan
and certified by the Kobe Beef Distribution & Promotion Council can truly be Kobe beef.
until August of this year, it simply wasn't available outside of Japan,
Macau, or Hong Kong. This was due in part to hoof and mouth disease and
radiation concerns on the part of the USDA and intense demand and not
enough product for export (only about 3,000 cows are certified Kobe) on
the Japanese side of the equation.
But, according to Reuters,
the U.S. has started accepting Kobe in this country from cattle slaughtered on, or
after, August 18, after those cows were found to meet the U.S. standards.
Which leads us to my getting a call from the people at Red The Steakhouse,
asking if I wanted a little taste of the meat in question. I've eaten
Wagyu and found it to be flavorful with a silky texture. That comes from
the intense marbling in the meat. But how does the Kobe stand up and,
more importantly, is it worth the expense?
Certificate of authenticity for Kobe beef from Japan.
Before dining, Vauthy
showed me pictures of the beef and the certificate of authenticity that
comes with it. A Kobe cow can be heifer or steer (interesting side note
-- the heifer must be a virgin to be sacrificed in the name of Kobe),
but authentic Kobe beef comes with a certificate complete with nose
print of the cow, weight, birth date, harvest date, and name. Tonight, I
would be eating Hanamaru (ID number 0847313400), a 27-month-old heifer.
The steak (which will forever be known as Hana to me), was
served thinly sliced, with only a hint of seasoning. Seared on the
outside and rare, it was as if chef Vauthy gently kissed Hana with the
intense heat of his grill.
The steak was tender beyond belief.
It's an unbelievable experience. The meat
literally...figuratively...melted as I ate it. I hate the word
"mouthfeel", but I've got to use it this one time, because meat this tender is a little otherworldly. The Kobe tasted mild. Subtle. There isn't that sharp metallic assault of blood and
mineral that you can get from steak. Instead, the meat is grassy
and sweet. This is a cow that was treated well for her short life on
this planet (though the claims of sake massages and a strict beer diet are highly exaggerated).
Red, the Steakhouse sells a 10-oz.serving of Kobe
beef for $199. In comparison, the restaurant's American bred Wagyu,
harvested from Lone Mountain Cattle Company 100 percent Japanese bloodline
stock, is $129 for a 16-oz. steak. For those of you on a "budget", a 16-oz. aged-certified Angus USDA Prime steak will run you $41 for a 16-oz.
rib eye. Which raises the question: is a steak worth the cost of a
weekend in the Bahamas? The answer is a qualified yes.
may be an extreme luxury, if you can afford it (and only if you can
afford it), you should experience a steak of this quality at least once.
The taste and texture are worth the price of admission to the circus. If you're on a budget, Kobe (like the shiny new BMW and the trip to Paris) should be shelved in order to pay the mortgage.
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At least you know which restaurant to suggest next time your boss (or Mitt Romney) says, "My treat."