Tag Archives: kobe

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

NOW OPEN: My Butcher Shop

WWW.JOHNNYPRIMEMEATS.COM

The time has finally come for me to start slinging meat as opposed to just crushing it.

Over the last six years I’ve really fine-tuned my taste for high quality beef. I can almost pick out flavor notes like those freaks who test milk and wine, only I do it with beef. Blue cheese “funk” here, aroma of hazel nuts there, earthy mushrooms over yonder. You get the idea.

Writing restaurant reviews lead to writing recipes, and striving to replicate the steakhouse experience in my kitchen – even to the point of dry-aging beef at home.

My concern and respect for this amazing protein also fostered a desire to learn about the entire beef life cycle: from cow/calf operations to stockers and backgrounders; from corn farms to grazing ranches; from forage to feed; from fabrication floor to front of the case, and all the way back to the restaurant again. Start to finish. No stone left unturned. I’ve even addressed various nutritional and environmental concerns.

I’ve become an expert on steak. But photographing, eating and writing about beef was no longer satisfying me. It seemed that I hit a wall and was spinning my wheels. I wasn’t fulfilling the goals I had for this website. Or maybe my goals changed, because now I feel the need to offer these meaty experiences to you, rather than just tell you about them. I’m still going to review restaurants, highlight products and write informative articles about beef. But now there’s got to be more than just those things.

That’s why I’ve decided to open an online butcher shop. I’ve been working with an extremely high end “middle meats” company that has the resources and connections to buy out massive stocks of incredible prime, American Wagyu and even Japanese Kobe beef. They’ve got a multi-million dollar state of the art facility in the Bronx’s famous Hunt’s Point Cooperative Market with a crazy dry-aging room, a huge blast freezer and all the support they need from an incredibly skilled team of butchers.

All my steaks are cut to order, and can be fully customized. They’re individually vacuum sealed, wrapped in butcher paper and signed by a butcher before being shipped to you. Shipping, by the way, will be free and arrive at your door just 2-days after the order is cut.

I’m really excited about this. I’ve hand selected every cut that I’m offering, and I’ve even cooked up and tasted everything to verify that it’s something I’d want on my own plate. If you tend to agree with me on my steak review opinions, then you’re in good hands with anything you order from my butcher shop. You won’t be disappointed. Johnny Prime Meats will impress you.

My plan is to stock a few items that will always be available. For example, the best steak I’ve ever eaten is the American Wagyu strip.

I’ll be offering that all the time, along with a few prime dry-aged rib eye options and a prime dry-aged porterhouse.

But the bonus is that I’ll also be showcasing some rare and unique proteins that have limited supply and quantity. For example, I’ve got my hands on some really sweet dry-aged Duroc pork rib chops right now, as well as some dry-aged tenderloin tails for the grill. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll try to locate some dry-aged veal, American Wagyu hanger steaks, or lamb bacon.

And speaking of bacon, you’ll be able to add a pound of thick cut bacon to any order for just $10 at checkout. Because what steak meal at home is complete without that steakhouse style slab of thick cut bacon?

I hope you guys are interested. Check out the shop. Browse the offerings. And keep your eyes on my meat!

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

Empire Steakhouse East

Empire Steakhouse East overall score: 85

The Empire Steakhouse empire just opened a midtown east location.

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My friend Matt was asked in for a press meal and he graciously invited me to tag along. We were able to try a bunch of stuff with our group, so I will get right to it.

Flavor: 9
We tried two cuts: the tomahawk rib eye, and the “Emperor’s cut,” which is a T-bone steak from the rear portion of the animal that has a much larger tenderloin side. I’m not quite sure how this is different than a porterhouse, unless what they offer as a porterhouse is more accurately described as a T-bone, which generally has a smaller tenderloin side.

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As you can see above, it looks a bit overcooked. With such a large hunk of beef, that is always a concern. Pair that with the hot plate presentation and some graying of meat is bound to happen. Much of the cut was fine, however, and the large tenderloin was very flavorful. The sirloin side was a little tougher, but this was a welcome texture change from the super soft tenderloin side. Flavors were very meaty, there was a great sear on the outside with a good crust, and the steak was well seasoned. In any case, I’ve decided to also include this cut on my porterhouse page even though it is also on the “other cuts” page as a T-bone. I feel like some diners may expect this was a porterhouse. I do, however, think the price tag on it is a bit hefty when compared to their porterhouse for two. I’m curious about the porterhouse and why it is so much cheaper that this cut. Is the porterhouse on the menu actually a T-Bone, which would mean that the emperor cut is actually the true porterhouse? 8/10.

The tomahawk rib eye was by far the better steak at 9/10. There was a good amount of funk to it, likely from the aging process, and it was cooked perfectly to the specified medium rare. The fat cap was a good size too, as you can see from the up-turned slice below. There is almost an equal portion of eye as there is cap.

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Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
All of the major cuts are prime and/or dry aged. The quality here is definitely a cut above (knee-slap). There are many sizes of porterhouse, multiple versions of the rib steak, several filets and even some off-cuts like the T-bone. In addition they offer A5 grade Kobe Wagyu filet and rib eye, imported from Japan.

Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are all fairly large, and plating is simple, without too much flourish. For some items, however, they do make a solid attempt at beauty. The seafood platter, for example, is gorgeous (see below). And all plates were cleaned and wiped of any splash before coming out to the table.

Price: 9
Menu prices seem to be pretty good. There are some items that are very fairly priced, like a porterhouse for two for $96. I think the tomahawk steak ($65), and the emperor’s steak for two ($120) are a bit steep, but there are other alternatives. For example, if you want a rib eye you can choose the regular bone-in at $49, which is under the average price point for midtown steak joints. The porterhouse might be a cheaper alternative to the emperor’s steak, but, like I said above, if you’re all about the tenderloin, then that emperor’s cut might make more sense. The cool thing here is that you are getting great quality for that price either way.

Bar: 8
The bar area is pretty nice. It’s not huge, but it makes the best of the space, with street-side high tops and large door-sized windows that open out to the sidewalk. The bar has a good selection of single malts as well, and they make a good martini.

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Specials and Other Meats: 8
There were no specials read to us, but this place does offer a fair amount of alternative meats, like lamb, veal and chicken. I didn’t notice any pork other than our bacon app. We tried the rack of lamb. This shit rivaled the beef. It was super flavorful, really well seasoned and perfectly cooked.

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Apps, Sides & Desserts: 7
I’ll just fire these off quick. First the seafood platter. I was a little bummed that there were no clams, oysters or mussels. Also, the lobster was completely flavorless, as were the shrimp. That was probably the only thing lacking in this meal, and that’s what is dragging down the score here. But the lump crab meat was absolutely delicious. No lack of flavor there. Also, it was beautiful when it came out to the table.

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As you can see we also tried the Canadian bacon. This was great. I highly recommend this when you come here, as there are very few other bacon apps that are quite as good. Pictured below is just a half of one slice (we ordered two slices to share among four people).

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We also tried the creamed spinach and truffle mac & cheese. Both were excellent. In fact I was wishing I wasn’t so full on meat, because I wanted more of that mac & cheese!

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Last, we also had some onion rings. These were lightly battered on the outside, tender on the inside, and lightly seasoned. We all liked them a lot.

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For dessert, we shared an apple strudel and a slice of chocolate mousse cake. Both were amazing. The chocolate mousse cake was light and fluffy, not overly sweet, and had a really nice oreo cookie crust on it. Delicious.

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The strudel was even better, in my opinion. The flaky dough was crisp but not hard, so you could eat it with a fork without having bits of crust shatter and fly all over the table. The apples had a nice hint of cinnamon and nutmeg to them. Just perfect.

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Seafood Selection: 6
There’s a shitload of fish to choose from here, but from the small amount we had (shellfish app) I am concerned. That lobster and those shrimp… so disappointing. But entree fish is a whole different ballgame. Bass, salmon, sole, tuna, crab cakes, shrimp, scallops and lobster (up to 4lbs) are all on the hot menu here. Since I didn’t try any, I can’t really opine on anything except for the shrimp, lobster and crab meat from the appetizer. Giving the benefit of the doubt for the actual fish, I have split the baby here with a 6/10.

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Service: 10
Impeccable. The guys here really know their cuts, and they are super attentive without being in your face. They were very patient with our photo-taking as well. HAHA! I may as well mention the bread and sauce here too. Same as the other location, they serve up nice warm onion bread rolls, and the steak sauce is pretty good!

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Ambiance: 10
This place is absolutely gorgeous inside. There’s a beautiful spiral staircase just past the bar that goes up to what I assume is a private dining area. There’s also a nice back room with a long “last supper” style table for somewhat isolated large groups, with a large screen TV that plays a digital fireplace video. And beautifully upholstered booths and elegant tables are arranged under what has to be a 25ft ceiling in the main dining room. The back wall has a glass, temperature-controlled wine shelf that goes from floor to ceiling.

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THE 1LB KOBE BURGER

You may have noticed a portion of a burger in one of my shots above. Well, when you’re eating with one of the guys from the Gotham Burger Social Club, you fucking try a burger.

Special thanks to Jill for taking this great shot of the guys:

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Anyway here’s the burger:

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This baby was juicy as fuck. I thought the patty might be too big at a full pound, but I was wrong. It didn’t overwhelm the bun or build up too high, somehow. The inside was cooked somewhere between rare and medium rare.

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There was a great beefy, full flavor to it, as it is Kobe quality. We went with a mild cheese, Swiss, that wouldn’t overpower the meat flavors. This was really fucking good. At $37 (with fries and toppings) I guess it better be! They also offer a standard burger at the bar for $17.

To sum up, this place edges out the other location by a point, and has better marks for flavor, but it may end up being a bigger spread if I ever get back in to try a seafood entree. That section definitely has some wiggle room.

EMPIRE STEAKHOUSE
151 E 50th St
New York, NY 10022

Megu

NOTE: This review is for the old location in Tribeca.

My bargain hunter wife got a crazy deal through Gilt City for the Omakase tasting menu at Megu, and on top of the amazing deal, she had some coupons to use on Gilt City, which made this meal a real steal (How does that feel? Feels like a deal.)

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ONE
So this seven (and a half) course meal began with a really beautiful, delicate, and palette-opening salmon tartare, topped with caviar. Holy shit the rhyming is bizarre. Have I gone too far?

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TWO
Next up was grilled asparagus on a stick, covered in a crispy semi-fried coating that was a little too thick. Nice, but a dipping sauce would have been pretty sick.

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THREE
After that bowlshit came some shit in a bowl: sebring to be exact, atop an oriental salad of shredded veggies, assorted nuts, and herbs. The waiter drizzled some hot grape seed oil over the fish to give it a quick sear, and then deftly placed two goji berries on top, there and here. Mine looked like a ghost, or a KKK member; either way it was something to fear.

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FOUR
Then we have a nice little trio of appetizers. Softshell crab with a house made tartar sauce. I usually hate soft shell crab, because usually the shell is not truly soft, because crabs are constantly molting at different rates across different parts of their body, because they are inconsiderate assholes (the crabby fucks that they are). This one, however, was nice. No choking on flakes of chitinous shell.

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Along with this was some grilled veg, consisting of tomato, shishito pepper, and shitake mushroom.

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Last was a chunk of miso black cod. Fucking delicious.

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FIVE
After that came the mutherfucking sushi. A full spicy tuna roll (too much, in my opinion: three pieces would have been fine instead of six), along with three pieces of sushi: tuna, live octopus, and yellowtail. Everything was good except the octopus. it was too chewy; difficult to get down.

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FIVE AND A HALF
Here comes that 0.5 course: liquid. First beer, and then miso soup. The soup was very fragrant and aromatic, but just average in terms of flavor. The good thing is that it was not thin or light, yet not overly salty or too robust.

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SIX
The good shit. I had the Kobe steak, which was a sirloin cut. It was cooked perfectly to medium rare, and presented on a hot stone for the extra earthy sear. The waiter poured a little cognac across it for showmanship. Check that shit out below:

Here’s a pair of close up shots of the meat. It came with some crispy garlic chips. I was hoping for a nice thick core of onion too, but whatever. Who can complain with meat of this quality?

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My wife had the grilled salmon, which came with some various mushrooms, squash, and veggie items. This was nicely cooked. Juicy but a good crust, flavorful but delicate, topped with chives.

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SEVEN
Last was the dessert plate, which had green tea cake, vanilla ice cream with mango sorbet, chocolate truffles, mixed fruit compote with yuzu, and yuzu creme brulee. All were pretty good here, but I slurped at the leftover yuzu compote liquids like a baby goat at the teet. So, so sweet. Tingles from my head down to my feet. And now my rhymes are complete, because it’s getting late, and I’m fucking beat.

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BUT WAIT!!! There’s more. I almost forgot the fucking decor. Take a look, you little foodie whores:

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MEGU
355 W 16th St
New York, NY 10011

Wagyu and Kobe Beef

What exactly IS Wagyu and/or Kobe beef? You see it on menus all the time, right? And usually with insanely jacked-up prices, so high that they make your asshole pucker up tighter than a virgin’s snatch on prom night.

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Well here’s a quick low-down on the delicious shit:

Wagyu: This is a term used to describe 4 Japanese breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat. There’s also two grading scales WITHIN the world of Wagyu. First is a letter and number pairing: A, B, or C and 1-5 within each grade, with A5 being the most marbled and C1 being the least. The second is the BMS (Beef Marbling Standard) score, which is a scale of 1-12. The best quality you can get in the US is A5 BMS 11 (not exactly sure why we can’t get A5 BMS 12). When this shit is on a menu, it’s pretty fucking expensive, and usually sold by the ounce. The four breeds of cattle are Japanese Black, Japanese Brown/Red, Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn.

Kobe: Basically, this is beef from drunk, fat, happy Japanese cows, or so the myth goes. Under Japanese law, Kobe beef is a very specific product from a specific place, from one breed of cattle, with very strict rules. It is said that the cattle are hand-fed using high-energy feed, including beer and beer mash, to ensure tenderness and high fat content. The cattle are also hand-massaged to reduce stress. I guess it’s only fair to pamper them if we’re going to slice ’em up and grill ’em! NOTE that REAL Kobe beef is typically NOT available in the USA, so if you see it on a menu, understand that it may likely be a knock off (though probably still very good) from a place other than Japan. Kobe derives from a strain of the Japanese Black breed of cattle known as Tajima.

Matsusaka: This is also a Japanese Black breed, hailing from the Matsusaka region of Mie, Japan.

Hida Beef: I’ve written a bit more extensively on this brand after attending an event. It is Japanese Black that derives from the Hida region of Gifu, Japan. Click HERE for more info.

Okay now that we have a little bit of the basics set up, you should check out this informative expose on the US beef and restaurant industry’s misuse of the terms Kobe and Wagyu. It is a four part series that dives deep, and dovetails with some similar frustrations I expressed after dining at Sparks. Bottom line: if you see Kobe or Wagyu on a menu in the USA, know that it is meaningless and likely an imitation (though still quite possibly a delicious piece of meat), because the US does not import beef from Japan. I personally have seen and ordered “Kobe style” or “Australian Wagyu” items on menus at some of these places.

PART 1
PART 2
PART 3
PART 4

BUT WAIT!!! THERE’S MORE!!! Now, just to confuse you even further, SOME Japanese beef is now allowed back in the USA. See the link below.

New Info as of 9/28/12 – some Japanese meats allowed back into the US

Mmmmmmm…. I really don’t give a fuck where it’s from. If it looks like this, I’m salivating.

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Yet another good summary of the history and current state of affairs on Wagyu and Kobe beef can be found HERE.