Tag Archives: kobe

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

Most people usually associate the word Wagyu with insanely jacked-up prices, so high that they make your asshole pucker up tighter than a virgin’s snatch on prom night. Well here’s a quick low-down on the delicious shit:

Wagyu is a compound word of sorts. Wa means Japan, and gyu means beef. Hence, beef that hails from Japan. In the beef world it’s a term used when referring to four Japanese breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling in their muscles. The four breeds of cattle are Black, Brown/Red, Polled and Shorthorn.

Until recently, Japanese beef was not imported into the United States, so any time you saw Wagyu on a restaurant menu, it was either a lie or an incomplete description. It was most likely beef from either an Australian or American hybrid Wagyu cross-breed animal.

Hybrid beef isn’t something that should be frowned upon. Many of the Wagyu cross-breeding programs produce excellent, highly marbled beef that strikes a nice balance between the traditional, robustly beefy flavors of the United States and that buttery-soft, intensely marbled Japanese stuff (which eats more like foie gras or some other protein, different from what we usually think of when we eat beef).

Lots of people get their panties in a bunch when you call the cross-bred stuff Wagyu, even at levels of full blood and purebred. They tend to confuse the literal translation of the word Wagyu (Japan beef) with the breed of cattle that the word represents.

The Wagyu breed is not and should not be region specific. Just as Angus did not cease to be Angus when it was imported from Scotland to the United States in the 1800’s, Wagyu does not cease to be Wagyu when it moves abroad. Both breeds are named for the locations where they originated.

In fact, almost every major European cattle breed was named after the location where it originated. Does that mean the ones that are raised in America should be called something else? No! We don’t call a German Shepherd an American Shepherd just because the breeder operates in New York. We don’t do that even when the animal isn’t purebred! So why treat Wagyu differently? It’s stupid.

On the flip side, the Wagyu breeds should not be confused or conflated with something like Kobe beef, which has some strict parameters to its regional product branding. That’s right, it’s a brand.

Kobe Beef

What exactly is Kobe beef? The easiest way to think about Kobe beef is to liken it to Champagne. To be called Champagne, the bottle has to be from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it’s just “sparkling wine.” The same logic applies to Kobe beef.

Under Japanese law, Kobe beef is a very specific product from a specific place, from one breed of cattle, with very strict rules. Kobe derives from a strain of the Japanese Black breed of Wagyu cattle known as Tajima. It’s said that the cattle are hand-fed using high-energy feed, including beer and beer mash, to ensure tenderness and high fat content. Basically, they’re grain-fed. The cattle are also apparently hand-massaged to reduce stress. I guess it’s only fair to pamper these beautiful beasts if we’re going to slice them up and grill them!

Note that real Kobe beef is typically not readily or easily available in the United States, 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 the Kobe region of Japan. As of the time of this book writing, there are only about nine places on America’s east coast that sell legit Kobe beef.

Other Regions of Japan

Several other regions of Japan have also branded themselves as beef specialty production zones similar to Kobe. Miyazaki produces some excellent beef, and beef from this prefecture is more commonly seen at high-end steakhouses and Japanese restaurants here in the United States. Matsusaka in Mie, Japan and Hida in Gifu, Japan are other areas that produce similarly outstanding beef. Both of them are harvesting Japanese black breeds of Wagyu, and holding the final product to rigorous quality standards.

Even Hokkaido has set itself apart with what is called “Snow Beef.” This product from the cold region of Hokkaido is said to be a unique expression of beef with intense flavor that can only be created in this rare environment. It’s said that the mountainous climate causes extra fat to develop in the animals, and that the cold weather lowers the melting point of their fat. This supposedly creates sweetness in the meat. I’ve tasted this stuff. It’s great, but I don’t know how much of that copy I believe. The purveyors from Japan are masterful at marketing their products.

Japanese Beef Marketing

People who love Japanese beef also love to talk about how the animals are given beer. “Drunk happy cows,” they say. They’re not drunk. They’re fed beer mash, which is likely just a waste byproduct from Japan’s booming beer-making businesses. We do the same here in the United States with whiskey mash byproducts.

Some producers in Japan are incorporating olives into the feed, and it makes for some deliciously enticing marketing campaigns. This is similar to how many United States beef producers incorporate different foodstuffs into their cattle feed depending on their localized and regional agriculture markets (almonds in California, sunflower seeds in New York, etc.). The Japanese are adept at marketing these feeding programs, and we could learn a thing or two from them.

Meat lovers here in the United States would go nuts for “almond-fed beef.” They’d be drunk with excitement for “whiskey beef.” Just imagine the wine pairings that could be had with beef that was fed different crushed wine grape varietal byproducts, which would’ve otherwise been discarded as waste from a winery’s pressing operation.

In reality, the United States and Japan’s feeding programs aren’t all that different. The animals eat grass, grain and a smattering of additional fermentation, distillation and industrial byproducts. The difference is really in the animals’ genetics when it comes to how much intramuscular fat they can develop.

I really don’t give a fuck where the meat is from, to be honest. If it looks like this, I’m salivating.

That’s probably about BMS 12, aka ultra-high prime.

OLD POST:

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.