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Kobe Confidential: At DeVito South Beach, Beef is Buttoned Up and "Like Butta"

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Let's face it.  If it's Kobe you order, true Kobe you may not always receive.  With the glut of steakhouses and burger joints flooding this town, more and more "Kobe" is turning up on menus in enough forms to make the IRS jealous.  Kobe burgers.  Kobe sliders.  Kobe corn dogs?  Certainly not an encouraging sign.

So in case you forgot to ask for some clarification (not that you should have to) as to exactly what beef will turn up on your plate when it's listed "Kobe" on the menu, we're making a few calls and visits.

First up -- other posts will follow -- DeVito South Beach.  Here, clarity conveniently comes in a form, too: a certificate of authenticity.

Yes, when you are black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu steer, your life of beer, beverages and daily sake massages is punctuated with a birth and death certificate. This is the one and only Kobe beef, like the meat version of Champagne, or any other geographically-protected product. At DeVito South Beach, an A-5 ribeye runs a market-consistent $29 per ounce, putting that nova you splurged on at $37 per pound to shame.  Its defining feature is the heavy fat marbling unique to Japanese Kobe.  Sear it medium rare, and it melts like butter on the tongue.  Leaving it raw will only delay the inevitable.  DeVito South Beach offers a $10 per ounce flat iron Kobe if you crave that Linda Richmond brand of sass without a side of buyer's remorse at the end of the meal. 

So what's with this American "Kobe"?  American Wagyu beef is Kobe-style, resulting from the domestic cross-breeding of Angus and Japanese Wagyu cattle that is raised with the same tenderizing alcohol rituals. The result is a darker meat with less marbling, traditionally more appealing to the American palate, that gained popularity in the early 2000s when all Japanese meat imports were banned into the U.S. during the Mad Cow disease scare.  In 2005, the ban was lifted, but Wagyu has found its way onto restaurant menus and into the hearts of sophisticated meat lovers across the country. 

Perhaps the best way to sample DeVito's Kobe is its carpaccio of filet. Arriving on a platter the size of cowboy's saddle, the carpaccio packs a bold flavor profile that will grab and not let go.  Aged balsamic-dressed arugula, enshrouded by pecorino (not parmesean) crisps, is surrounded by paper-thin discs drizzed with lemon aioli and hit with a confetti of punchy fried capers.  A little squeeze of grilled lemon, and you're good to go.  At $22, this antipasto easily feeds four, despite the menu's suggested service for two. 

DeVito South Beach, like Jeffrey Chodorow's re-opened club of Kobe worship, offers a flight (the raw selection pictured first) served to the desired temperature of you and a guest or two, arriving from broiler to Venetian marble expediting ledge to table with a choice of three sauces.  However, at $295, stick with one type of beef per visit to let each product shine -- and save a few greenbacks, too.   The explicit menu allows for confident decision-making, offering details on how the restaurant's all natural, antibiotic-free beef is "hand-selected" and "aged for 21 days in the Famous Stockyards of Chicago." Because it just isn't good enough for Danny that 97 percent of American Wagyu is USDA prime, compared to the 2 percent of American beef overall, DeVito South Beach meat is "often beyond USDA prime standards for marbling, texture and flavor." 

Each slab gets another rubdown post-mortem, in the form of the same Himalayan Pink Salt that presented the tartare.  Finished with cracked black pepper and "Devito Dust," the juices are sealed in with beautiful grill marks under a hot broiler.  Turns out Australian Wagyu rib cap, a heartier cut of meat, has a flavor and taste all its own, providing a ranch-hand-satisfying option... like Kobe that took a few pointers from Clint Eastwood.  And to think that an 8 ounce piece will only set you back 49 buckaroos? Or go for the American Wagyu ribeye at $7.37 per ounce.

If you think DeVito South Beach is the island's typical excess embodied on a plate, and on the bill, rest assured that this restaurant is changing with the times.  It lowered menu prices in January to stay competitive and is on the top of its game, recently receiving the 2009 Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (the only restaurant in luxe-laden south of Fifth to proudly hang such an honor on its wall.)  Stop in for Miami Spice through September 30 and see for yourself with insurance.

DeVito South Beach
(305) 531- 0911
150 Ocean Drive
South Beach

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