Tag Archives: japanese beef

Kow Cattle Company & Nobu 57

I’ve been holding off on talking about Kow Cattle Company for a bit, hoping to visit the farm and facilities out in Iowa first, but I’ve been privileged to eat so much of it in the past year that I just couldn’t hold back anymore – especially after the beef binge I just had with their product at Nobu 57.

Kow Cattle Company is a small producer of highly marbled, domestically raised wagyu full blood and purebred animals in Iowa. They’re consistently raising cattle that grade out at super high prime, with BMS scores of 8 or higher.

They made a big splash in the NYC meat scene and made some great connections both in the restaurant world and in the influencer world.

Some noteworthy folks who are featuring their product fairly regularly: BLT Steak, Delmonico’s, The Grill, The James Beard House, The Gotham Burger Social Club, Bistrot Leo, Boucherie, and, of course Nobu 57 (and more as well).

 

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Supply isn’t always high at Kow, so if you see some on a menu, grab it while you can.

My first run-in with this delicious stuff was at Bistrot Leo. I tried a burger, some tenderloin tartare, filet skewers and a tomahawk rib eye that night. As you might imagine, the shit was delicious.

 

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One of the owners of the company, Jon Urbana, who has since become a good friend of mine, sent me home with a beautiful strip steak to cook up:

Later, I banged out a tomahawk at home as well. Absolutely stunning.

The high quality, and more importantly the consistency of that quality, is pretty much untouched by any domestic producer of wagyu beef here in the states. I’d love to get some of it into my shop, but they’re currently only shipping direct from their site. Believe me, a LOT of distributors are trying to get their paws on this stuff right now. I’m not alone.

In any case, seeing that Nobu 57 is one of Kow’s purveyors here in NYC, Jon brought me there to try some of the new lot of striploin that they have.

What occurred was nothing less than a Kow Cattle Company strip loin omakase for the ages.

COURSE 1

This preparation is thinly sliced, torched and sauced with ponzu and some sesame, rare to raw. Simple and delicious.

COURSE 2

Beef nigiri sushi. This had a quick sear on the edges, rare to raw.

COURSE 3

Tataki. One of my favorites. Thin sliced after being seared on the edges, rare to raw, and then lightly dressed and garnished with some ginger and shiso.

COURSE 4

This was my favorite. This was seared on the edges as well, rare to raw, but sliced a bit thicker and garnished with a black garlic sauce and some micro sprouts. Incredible.

COURSE 5

This was similar to sukiyaki, a saucy stew with onions and greens. Really tasty, and it demonstrates that even when cooked through, this stuff is tender and savory.

COURSE 6

Classic steakhouse fare here: seared and sliced, rare to medium rare, served with a garlic miso butter on a bed of grilled asparagus. Perfection.

COURSE 7

Foie gras and wagyu beef potsticker dumplings. So decadent, and they ate almost like soup dumplings with that burst of liquified foie and wagyu renderings.

I think that covers it. When you go to Nobu 57, you’ll find Kow on the “washu” side of the menu. Ask about some of the preparations you saw here, because they’re not always on the menu. If you know about them, they may accomodate you if they have the ability. Some stuff is limited availablility, so go early and go often.

NOBU 57
40 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Japanese Beef Scoring

After having a discussion with some food pals about beef marbling scores for Japanese beef, I realized that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the subject. As such, I figured it was time for a more detailed article about this shit. Here goes…

There are three things to understand when it comes to marbling scores:

(1) Yield Rating
(2) Quality Rating
(3) Beef Marbling Standard (BMS)

In many ways quality and marbling overlap each other, since it usually follows that highly marbled beef is also high quality beef. But lets break it down here one at a time.

(1) The A-B-C’s of Yield

I like to think of this as the quantity component, as opposed to quality. A yield rating is a percentage figure that objectively describes the cutability of an animal, or the amount of the animal that can be harvested from a particular area of the carcass.

In particular, this score is determined by carefully measuring shit once a cut is made between the 6th and 7th rib, on the rib eye. The score is assigned after plugging four measurements taken at that cut into a “multiple regression equation.”

The four measurements are: rib eye area; rib thickness; cold left side weight; and subcutaneous fat thickness.

Raters score wagyu as either A, B or C in Japan. A has the highest yield, at 72% or more. B is 69-71%, and this is the most common yield. C is under 69%.

From a business and sales standpoint, it’s better to have higher yields on your animal. So A is better than C in many ways on that angle. For example, a carcass can get knocked down from A to B if the band of outer fat (not the marbling) is too thick, because it lowers the cutability yield (makes the actual rib eye meat smaller). Farmers and ranchers who raise the animals will want to select and breed for good yield traits.

From a consumer’s or diner’s standpoint, however, the yield isn’t, or shouldn’t really be, much of a concern. While a rating of A, B or C makes us instinctively think A is better than C, that would kinda be wrong in this case.

The C grade really just means that, before the meat got to our plate, more of the extrenal fat had to be trimmed away, the rib eye was small, or there was less of that particular cut of meat to harvest from the animal. Or something like that…

Wagyu.org

(2) Quality

Quality grades describe the meat’s marbling, color, brightness, firmness and texture. It also describes fat quality, color and luster. This score is assigned as a value of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest quality and 5 being the highest. A lot of detailed analysis goes into this score.

Wagyu.org
Wagyu.org

As you can see, marbling, meat color and brightness, meat firmness and texture, and fat quality, color and luster are all evaluated on separate scales before being plugged into the overall quality score of 1-5. Pretty intense.

Some of the measurements are now starting to be done with cameras and digital image analysis software (like in the US), to more objectively determine the quality scores.

(3) Beef Marbling Standard (BMS)

The beef marbling stardard assigns a score to the meat based on how much intramuscular fat (IMF, or marbling) it has. It is scored from 1-12, with 1 being the least marbling and 12 being the most. Here is what that looks like:

Wagyu.org
Wagyu.org

There is definitely some interplay and overlap here with the quality score, as marbling is a factor one must consider when assigning a quality score of 1-5 up above. But the BMS score is much a more specific look at the intramuscular fat. Here is the relationship between quality and BMS:

Quality 1 = BMS 1 (poor)
Quality 2 = BMS 2 (below avg)
Quality 3 = BMS 3-4 (avg)
Quality 4 = BMS 5-7 (good)
Quality 5 = BMS 8-12 (excellent)

As you can see, a score of 5 covers a wide range when it comes to the BMS scale. BMS 8 is very different from BMS 12, yet they are both a 5 for quality.

You may be thinking, why the redundancy? Well, as I mentioned in the previous section, the quality also takes meat color, fat color, texture and other variables into account. BMS, again, is purely about the marbling.

But when I see “A5” on a menu, I want to know the BMS as well. I sell BMS 9 domestic wagyu strip for $75 a pound, whereas I sell BMS 12 Kobe for $200 a pound. Both would be considered a quality of 5. See how the BMS score just within the quality rating of 5 can drastically alter the price? Crazy.

Putting It All Together

Basically the best quality available is A5 BMS 12. The A means that there was very little junk on the animal, and it had a good-sized rib eye. The 5 means it’s the best when assessing all the variables relevant to quality, like color, texture and fat. And the 12 means that it has the most marbling.

But I wouldn’t shy away from B5 or C5 BMS 12 either. Remember the letter grade is more about quantity, at least it seems so to me, anyway. Actually, my sweet spot seems to be around BMS 8 or 9. Anything more than that is like foie gras. It tastes like a completely different protein.

Kobe Beef from Japan

So it happened… I got my hands on some real-deal Japanese Kobe beef! These are strip loin / New York strip steak cuts, to be precise. Click HERE for the product page in the shop.

I had my guys portion these out so that they’re not too insane on the wallet. Jump on them now and you can get 8oz for $100 (down from $125). Not too bad for the rarity of this beef.

I feel like a half pound is the perfect size for this (you can share with another person, too; 4oz each). Why such a small portion? Because it eats more like foie gras than beef. It’s so tender, so uniform in texture, so juicy, and so rich with delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fat, that you may want a reprieve after a few ounces.

You may want to mix up the textures with another cut. If that’s the case, my suggestion is this: grab one of these, one domestic wagyu strip, and one dry-aged prime porterhouse. Have yourself a taste-off and see which you like the best.

MY BUTCHER SHOP

Hida Beef

Hida is a region in Japan, located in the northern part of Gifu prefecture on Honshu island. That’s west of Tokyo, but not quite as far as Kyoto or Osaka. While I’ve never been there, I can tell it’s a place that I’d definitely want to visit.

Hida is known for it’s outstanding beef (Hida-gyu), which is derived from a black-haired Japanese breed of cattle. Laws are such that, to quality as the Hida brand, the cattle has to have been raised in Gifu prefecture for at least 14 months. The beef is characterized by intense, beautiful, web-like marbling with a buttery, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. The flavor is both rich and delicate at the same time. It can be likened to the top percentiles of wagyu beef, rivaling kobe and matsusaka in quality, with marbling grades of A/B 3, 4, and 5.

I was invited to a Hida beef tasting event at EN Japanese Brasserie, one of the seven restaurants in the area that will be serving Hida beef on their menus. The other six are Brushstroke, Hakubai, Hasaki, Sakagura, Shabu-Tatsu and the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first time that Hida beef is available here in the States, so if you’re a meat aficionado like me, you should definitely hit one of these places and give it a try. This stuff is expensive though, so make an occasion out of it.

I tried the beef in four different preparations: (1) sliced raw, nigiri sushi style, and then kissed with the scorching flame of a blowtorch; (2) seared edges, a tatami trio, with three different kinds of salt; (3) “Hoba-miso” style, stone grilled with miso sauce; and (4) chopped raw, tartare or ceviche style, with citrus and uni. Despite all the marbling, the meat doesn’t come off tasting very fatty, like some highly marbled cuts do. It didn’t leave a coating of waxy or fatty residue on my palate like certain cured salamis with high fat content. And it didn’t cause the flavors of whatever I ate next to change or taste different due to that fat, which is sometimes the case with aged beef and cured salami. In short, it was really a very pleasing experience.

I’ll start with my favorite preparations: (2) and (3). The tataki trio was essentially three slices of Hida beef (strip loin), each dressed with a different salt element: yuzu soy sauce, sea salt and a special red salt that had hints of spice to it. All three were great, but I think I liked the classic sea salt topper the best.

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The hot stone grilled preparation, Hoba-miso, was the only one in which the beef was cooked through. This dish is local to Hida. The sliced beef is placed on Hoba (a big Magnolia leaf) with miso and scallions, which then sits directly on the surface of the hot stone. As you can see, the before and after photos of this method indicate that this beef can be thoroughly enjoyed fully cooked if you’re one of those puss-bags who is afraid to eat raw or under-cooked meat.

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Fully cooking the beef did not take anything away from the meat. You still get that buttery smooth texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor characteristics. In fact, the leaf and miso bring nice flavor accents to the beef that compliment it well. This, too, was a strip loin cut of beef, and it was presented to eat on grilled sticky rice patties.

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Here’s the chef, Abe Hiroki, who was grilling these delicious morsels to absolute beef-paradise perfection:

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The torched nigiri style reminded me slightly of spam musubi, for the sole reason that it was a warm meat item served atop sushi rice. Here, you can get a real, unadulterated taste of the beef in all its marbled glory. It truly is spectacular.

I’ve been eating aged beef for so long that something this pure and clean really blew me away. This was strip loin as well.

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This was the sushi master behind these perfect pieces of nigiri:

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Finally, this tartare or ceviche style came dressed with a citrus yuzu sauce and was topped with uni (raw sea urchin). Absolutely stunning and decadent. The reason I am interchanging tartare with ceviche is that, typically, ceviche involves fish and citrus, while tartare features meat and egg yolk. Since this dish had elements of both but not all, I figured I’d split the baby. Tarviche? Why not. Also strip loin.

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The event also showcased some nice sake selections with flavors ranging from dry to sweet, traditional to aromatic and fruity.

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In fact, the event began with a “breaking the mirror” ceremony on the casks of sake, as well as a sake toast.

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The governor of Gifu was even in attendance, introducing the beef, the region and the customs to the audience.

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The restaurant itself is beautiful, and I look forward to coming back to try some more of this amazing beef. Every preparation was 10/10 for flavor, and I highly recommend it.

EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
435 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014