Less than a year ago, Doug Psaltis conducted one of the most tantalizing — and prohibitively expensive — tasting tests imaginable. In his kitchen at RPM Steak, he laid out slices of authentic Wagyu beef from all over Japan, some costing 10 times that of premium dry-aged beef. Altogether they were offered at only six restaurants in the world. Then he thoroughly studied them.
It is notoriously difficult to source authentic Wagyu beef from Japan, as true Wagyu (which translates as “Japanese cow”) refers to specific breeds of cattle that produce extremely marbled beef loaded with healthy unsaturated fats. Fortunately for Psaltis, he’d earned the trust of an influential purveyor. “Charge me for every sample,” he told his purveyor. “I want to prove to you that I’m serious.”
And serious he was. He and his staff tasted the meat raw and then sizzled, fired and broiled the samples in every way possible. In the end, he found that cooking them over a wood-fired grill delivered the best flavor.
The glorious results are now available, served in three-ounce portions with house-made soy and fresh wasabi, for discerning palates to savor. Below are our tasting notes on four of the most decadent steaks you’ll ever lay your taste buds on.
HOKKAIDO SNOW BEEF:
Sourced from cattle raised on a lakefront farm in Hokkaido, one of the coldest regions in Japan, this may be the most well-marbled beef on the planet. It’s believed that Hokkaido’s harsh weather conditions produce the snowstorm-like patterns of marble. It is so rare that RPM is only one of four restaurants in the world licensed to sell it.
FLAVOR: The equivalent of drinking the softest, tannin-free Pinot imaginable. All those spider webs of marble literally melt into the steak, producing ultra-clean flavors. If fine Italian speck could be transformed into a steak, this would be it.
They call him the “the cattle whisperer.” For years, devotees have asked Mr. Ideue how he raises his cattle in Kagoshima Prefecture. He’s refused to reveal his secrets, saying only that he’s developed a way to ensure his cattle live a blissfully stress-free life. One taste and you’ll understand his reasoning.
FLAVOR: Of all RPM’s Japanese steaks, Ideue’s are the most luxuriously textured. Think otoro tuna. Soft and supple, they don’t feel heavy on the tongue and deliver flavors in layers: crust, beef and marble. This is as greaseless as a steak can get.
Think of Kobe as the Champagne of steaks. You can get sparkling wine anywhere, but those bubbles have to come from the Champagne region of France to be labeled as such. Same with Kobe. Kobe is a regional style of Wagyu that is 100 percent Tajima beef from Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture.
FLAVOR: A steak that takes and holds a char incredibly well. You get well-rounded caramelized nut flavors here, which calls to mind aged hams like jamon de Iberico or quality prosciutto. If there’s such a thing as sophisticated umami, this is it.
The most ubiquitous Wagyu beef in Japan, Miyazaki derives from cattle that are 30 months or older at the time of slaughter, which yields not only marbled beef but also a far more full-bodied flavor than we’re accustomed to in the U.S. Because Miyazaki is traditionally sliced thin (think sha-bu-shabu) in Japan, tasting it in American steak form is a one-of-a-kind experience
FLAVOR: The richest of RPM’s Japanese steaks, the Miyazaki bursts with the kind of forest-floor notes that positively dance with big red wines. Close your eyes and you might get notes of charred mushrooms and fresh barley. It’s a steak with flavor and finesse.
An opportunity to taste one of the oldest brands of Wagyu still available, with a lineage that goes back to the 15th century. Once reserved only for the emperor of Japan, this beef is imported by RPM just once a month. When it’s out, diners must wait until the next month.
FLAVOR: Expect complexity and balance. There’s not one single flavor note that dominates. You taste the terroir of the Shiga Prefecture where it’s raised. This is that rare steak that’s almost soft with notes of alfalfa and green grass.
The new “Art of Aging Tour” at Primehouse pulls back the curtain to reveal the secrets behind the fine art of dry-aging steaks.
It’s a carnivore’s dream. If you follow Primehouse executive chef Dino Tsaknis on the restaurant’s “Art of Aging Tour,” you’ll wind your way from his impec- cably clean kitchen through the restaurant’s butchering room to the main attraction of the evening: a 50-square-foot dry-aging room that’s lined with Himalayan sea salt and more beef than a Texas-style cattle drive.
The views of rack after rack of beef are intended to make you salivate, but they’re also meant to teach you about the dry-aging process. You’ll learn everything you need to know about dehydration, marbling and the power of salt. More importantly, you’ll be able to start thinking about steaks as if they were cheeses. If you like your steaks blue-cheese funky, order the 75-day-old steaks. More of a Taleggio fan? Try 55. Sharp-cheddar lovers go for 40 days.
Personally, Tsaknis likes gentler beef notes, which is why all guests who go on the tour get treated to a family-style dinner. The meal comes complete with tableside Caesar salad, basil mashed potatoes, seasonal veggies and cuts from a 40-day-old ribeye and 30-day porterhouse dipped in the house’s signature “beef love” marinade: a sauce made from rendered beef drippings. Because no two dry-aging rooms — much like cheese caves — grow exactly the same bacteria, it’ll taste like no other steak in the city. Guaranteed.
Primehouse’s Art of Aging Tour costs $180 for a party of four. Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.