Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beef Exceptional!: A Tasting of Wagyu Beef From 4 Regions of Japan.

Our beef tasting was done under the very capable hands of Nota Bene chef David Lee. Our timing was perfect, arriving just after the lovely renovations were completed. All samples of Japanese beef were sourced from Famu, Toronto's Japanese butcher Seiko Ishiguro.

We chose strip loin cuts as they would be easier to cut and portion.

Japanese wagyu beef is intensely fat and will melt in your mouth. This is because the fat melts at a lower temperature (77F; 25C). This melting point is lower than the fat of conventional angus or wagyu cross breed beef that one buys in the USA or Canada. Even handling the meat in your hands can melt the fat.  So, Japanese wagyu beef should not be cooked further than medium-rare.

 Japanese beef is graded on a scale determined by the amount of intramuscular fat and the quality and colour of the fat. The higher the number, the better the beef. Beef with the highest grade of fat is graded A5. U.S. prime beef must have 6-8% of marbled fat to qualify for the highest USDA grade of “prime”. In order to achieve the highest quality grade for wagyu (A5), on the other hand, meat must be at least 25% marbled fat. 

Chef David Lee with renown foodie Moez kassam, holding the 4 beef samples.

 The Hokkaido and Okinawa samples.

Closeup of the raw Okinawa sample.

The Myazaki and Kagoshima samples. 

A closeup of the Myazaki sample.

The beef samples were presented in 2.5 oz pieces. The beef samples were perfectly cooked and seared properly to create the Mallard reaction, which I feel must be done properly to obtain the maximum flavor with Japanese beef. Two of the 4 samples tied to win, Kagoshima and the Okinawa. I preferred the Okinawa and gave it a score of taste 9+; texture 9 and juiciness 9. After the tasting I learned that the Kagoshima sample was fed sweet potatoes as part of its food regime.

The samples plated, flight one.

Close up of a cooked sample.

It was interesting to note that the differences between each sample, in taste, texture and juiciness, was extremely subtle. The fat was creamy in texture with a slightly nutty flavor. The meat lacked the very forward beefy taste of the best of Canadian prime that one might receive from such prime butchers in Toronto as Cumbrae’s or Olliffe’s, but, nevertheless, the flavors were wonderful. In regards to the texture, one taster commented that the juiciness lacked some of the liquid juices typically experienced with North American beef. It was remarked that the liquid juiciness he described may have been due to how the beef he remembered tasting, was stored (wet aged; dry aged; or a combination). Dry aged beef, aged 6-8 weeks, an ideal, has much less of the liquid juicy aspect. The bottom line is that the taste experience with Japanese beef cannot really be fairly compared to the experience tasting beef from elsewhere. That comparison is a bit like the trite comparison comparing apples and oranges.

Some wines we enjoyed with this dinner:

That's Harlan Maiden and Marcel Guigal Cotes Rotie La Landonne!

1971 Mouton Rothschild, still remarkable wine after 45 years! (not that the others were not wonderful as well!).

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