Nose-to-Tail at the New York Grill (May 16-23)

 

The Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill offers a special menu from May 16-23, 2016. The Nose-to-Tail wagyu event is a five-course event for meat lovers. Chef de Cuisine of the New York Grill and Bar Federico Heinzmann is from Argentina. Federico was saying that Argentines eat about 55 kg of beef a year, compared to only about 5 kg for the Japanese. So, you know you are in good hands with an all-meat tasting course in the hands of an Argentine chef. In Argentina there are 39 million people and 47 million cows.

Federico pointed out that the Japanese are already used to eating every bit and piece of the animal. For example, at a yakitori-ya the menu will include different parts of the chicken, so the concept of a nose-to-tail for the Japanese is not too unusual.

The theme for this year’s event is “Smoked and Cured”, which is woven into each course. Many meats are marinated before cooking and several accompaniments are smoked, adding complexity to the dishes.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the meal, as it is a treat to have the cuisine revealed for you at the dinner. The bits of the cow include the tongue, heart, brisket, flank, and tail. Chef Federico also excels in vegetables, which shines in side dishes like a fermented carrot quinoa risotto. There is a nod to NYC with a pastrami and to Patagonia with an ancient rock salt.

The main course is a flank steak. The Japanese have a saying, “kameba kamu hodo“, the more you chew, the more delicious it is. The Argentines also have a similar philosophy and the two countries meet here in this dish.

The wines for the tasting course is expertly paired with Melville wines from the Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara. The cool climate wines are aged in old French barrels, so the grapes can speak for themselves. Refreshing, nice acidity, and very food-friendly chardonnay and pinot noirs for the dinner. As a sommelier, I can confirm that the pairings complement the cuisine.

If you are visiting Tokyo during this time, you are in luck. If you live in this great city, save this meal for a special night out. You are in good hands. Come early and have a cocktail at the New York Bar before your dinner.

Details:

New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

20,000 JPY (plus tax and service) for five courses, dinner only

May 16-23, 2016

http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkGrill.html

Advertisements

Steak and Saké – Sakura Masamune

Sakura Masamune Bonds Well with Beef

Sakura Masamune – Bonds Well with Beef

Working for two years at Nihonbashi Takashimaya’s depachika was an education. I was in the saké department. In Japanese saké refers not only to nihonshu, but to all alcoholic beverages. While I was hired as a sommelier and my chief responsibility was wine, I also had to be able to sell saké, shōchū, beer, and spirits. I learned so much about retailing in Japan, from packaging to gift-giving. One of the big take-aways was marketing of food.

Marketing of alcoholic beverages in Japan sometimes veers away from the traditional to offer unique ideas on pairing food with beverages. So it was no surprise when my Japanese cousin gave me this bottle of saké from Kobe from Sakura Masamune. The saké is called Bonds Well with Beef and is packaged in a wine bottle. Kobe is famous for its wagyū marbled beef. It’s a fun concept and especially smart for the saké brewery to do this as there are many restaurants in their area where this would stand out on a beverage list.

I was curious to see if this saké would actually pair well with a steak. We usually don’t eat wagyū at home as it’s better to leave that to restaurants that specialize in it, like Ginza Dons de la Nature. At home we usually have a US steak simply cooked in a cast iron pan.

The saké did surprisingly well with the steak, better than I had imagined. Sakura Masamune is a reputable brewery with a rich history of over 400 years. The rice is Yamada Nishiki, one of the most popular rice varietals for making saké. It was brewed in the kimoto method which is a traditional style that produces richer saké. The saké was slightly dry and had a nice acidity, which was great for steak. I imagine it would have been even better with a fatty wagyū.

In Tokyo I’ve seen this saké sold at some department stores. Best to call ahead if you want to buy this to make sure it is in stock. At home we usually drink wine with steak, but it is fun to add this into the mix every now and then.

Sakura Masamune Bonds Well with Beef – technical details in English

http://www.sakuramasamune.co.jp/english/bondswell.html

 

Wadakura at the Palace Hotel Tokyo 和田倉

Image

Seasonal Sashimi of Sea Bream, Medium Fatty Tuna, and Squid

Kaiseki restaurant Wadakura in the Palace Hotel Tokyo is a quiet oasis overlooking the moat of the Imperial Palace. Seasonal dishes are brought out in small portions and presented on beautiful dishes. There are many good reasons for having kaiseki for lunch. First and foremost, it is much more affordable than having kaiseki for dinner. But, more importantly, evening kaiseki meals can be very taxing on the stomach. Some kaiseki restaurants are only open for dinner, so it is good to keep in mind the restaurants that are serve kaiseki at lunch, including Wadakura.

Image

Wagyū Sirloin Steak Jyūbako

I dined with a girlfriend so we ordered two different menu items. This jyūbako, a square lacquer box of rice topped with seared wagyū sirloin steak as the main part of the kaiseki is 8,700 JPY. This comes with an appetizer, sashimi, miso soup, pickles, and dessert. The meat was marbled with fat but was not too rich. A great option for meat eaters.

Image

Nodate Bentō Box

The three-tiered lunch box kaiseki set starts at 5,400 JPY. This is a lovely presentation with many courses served in one box. This is also served with rice, miso soup, pickles, and dessert. Following are some of the highlights of the Nodate bentō.

Image

Wagyū Croquette

Image

Grilled delicacies. Small bites including duck, eel, chicken, and eggplant.

Image

Bamboo Shoot, Wakamé, Fuki (butterbur stalks), and Roe

This is a typical spring dish. Delicate flavors of the ocean (fresh wakamé and roe) come together with mountain vegetables (bamboo shoots and butterbur stalks). In particular, the sansai mountain vegetables sing of spring. Tender bamboo shoots and the crunchy butterbur stalks simmered in dashi.

Desserts were the perfect finish to a big meal, warabi mochi with coconut and mango and an aromatic annin dōfu.

Wadakura is on the 6th floor of the Palace Hotel Tokyo. There are private rooms, but the main dining room has a large window overlooking the moat of the Imperial Palace. There are only a handful of tables in the simple space so it still feels intimate. This day the other diners included some businessmen and well-heeled ladies. The kimono-clad servers are very gracious and could answer my many questions about the different ingredients. The Nodate bentō comes with a bilingual Japanese and English menu which is a nice souvenir, especially when looking back at the photos of the different dishes. A very nice touch for novices to Japanese cuisine who want to know more about the varied ingredients.

DSCN7335

Ichi-no-Ichi-no-Ichi Palace Hotel Original Sake

One of the highlights of dining at Wadakura is the private branded saké made for the Palace Hotel by Hakkaisan of Niigata. This saké is not sold retail so the only place one can try this is at the Palace Hotel. The name of the sake, Ichi-no-Ichi-no-Ichi, is the address for the hotel, Marunouchi 1-1-1. The calligraphy on the label is gorgeous as well. The saké has a nice aroma of rice and is very food-friendly.

Wadakura, a kaiseki oasis on the moat of the Imperial Palace, is a short walk from Tokyo Station.

Wadakura at the Palace Hotel Tokyo

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-1-1

030-3211-5322

Best Steak in Tokyo – Dons de la Nature

Image

The assignment came from my boss in London, to seek out and eat the best steak in Tokyo. Tough assignment from Chowzter, but Shinji and I were up to the challenge. We were surprised when we called Dons de la Nature and got in within a few days. Seems that this restaurant is not yet on everyone’s radar.

Image

The restaurant is located in an unassuming basement on the main Chuo Dori street in the Ginza shopping district. Walking into the corridor leading to the elevator we feel as though we are in the wrong spot, until we spot the window filled with wine bottles and the name of the restaurant. We arrive and the okami-san (female manager overlooking the front of the house) is very friendly and down to earth. She takes our jackets and brings us to our table.

Image

Saga sirloin on top and Yonezawa filet on the bottom.

This evening there are only two options of steak, a filet from Yonezawa in Yamagata and a sirloin from Saga. The sirloin is highly marbled and has more fat than meat. The filet, while meaty, still has a nice amount of shimofuri, the white fat that is flecked throughout the meat. The steak is cut into 400-gram portions and cooked in one piece before it is cut and shared, so couples must agree on the same cut. The sirloin looked too fatty so we agreed on the filet.

Image

While the interior is tired and service is casual, the cuisine on the plate is taken very seriously. Chef Otsuka trained as a French chef and it is reflected in his carefully assembled salad topped with fresh crab legs, Japanese tiger prawn, and salmon. The consommé is classically made and I quickly forget about the environs and focus on the food.

The steaks start at about 30,000 JPY each ($300 USD) which is shared between two people. That is before soup and salad. There is also a course menu which starts at 21,000 JPY per person. We took wine by the glass but there is also a long list to choose from of mostly French wines.

The raising of kuroge wagyū (black-haired Japanese cattle) in Japan is very different from what you’ll find outside of Japan. The cows are grass-fed the first eight months of their lives. Each farmer selects the feed he believes to be best for the wagyū, such as soybeans or corn or straw. The last four months of their lives the cows are not fed straw anymore. We asked chef Otsuka if it is true that wagyū are fed beer and he said some places do, but that it is actually quite rare. But, he did confirm that wagyū are massaged daily. This is what helps to give the beef the shimofuri marbling that it is so famous for.

Chef Otsuka came to our table and talked about how he selects his wagyū. He only picks the best that he finds at the wholesale market so his inventory is constantly changing. He has no preferences or loyalties to any region, but will pick what is the best that day at the market.

The wagyū is first dry-aged for one month, increasing the natural umami in the meat. The second month it is wet-aged. At this point the fat in the meat turns into amino acids, adding even more umami to the meat. The aging is all done in-house.

Image

Chef Otsuka could see that we were so curious about our dinner as we peppered him with questions and he generously invited us into his kitchen. The meat is skewered and then cooked in a kiln that was custom built for the sole purpose of grilling the meat with intense heat. The charcoal used at Dons de la Nature is made from Kinshu binchotan. Binchotan is a charcoal made from a Japanese oak tree. And, while many places may say that they use binchotan for grilling, the best quality binchotan is said to come from Kinshu, and the stock is very limited. Some binchotan is not even Japanese. We were told the binchotan can bring the oven to a temperature of upwards of 800 to 1000 degrees Centigrade.

Chef Otsuka seasons the wagyū with salt and pepper, skewers the steak, and then puts it into the kiln over the binchotan. He then closes the kiln and listens for the sound of the fat in the wagyū melting and falling onto the hot binchotan. The charcoal then starts to smoke, adding another layer of flavor to the steak. An Argentinian chef friend of mine recently told me about the seven ways to cook meat in Argentina and one of the methods was in a similar kiln. I wonder if this is where chef Otsuka came up with the idea.

Image

The recommended serving for the steak is medium rare. The outside is just seared in the middle is still red. The steak is presented whole and then is cut at the table into two pieces for each person.

The steak is incredibly rich in umami. The contrast in texture from the crispy seared outside to the tender, rare inside is a treat. As the steak is marbled with fat it almost melts in your mouth. After my first bite “oh my God” came out of my mouth. I didn’t realize it until I heard the okami-san laughing. It was, hands down, the best steak I have ever had in my life.

In speaking with chef Otsuka after our meal he said what makes his steaks so unique is the searing in the custom-made kiln. Otsuka explained that most restaurants cook steak in a pan over a gas heater and that the sauté pan can only get up to about 250 degrees Centigrade. He also said that as wagyū is so fatty that when it is cooked in a pan that it is cooking in its own fat. And, that the searing directly over charcoals is the method that he thinks is ideal for Japanese beef.

This is what makes his steak the best in Tokyo, if not the best in the world.

 

Dons de la Nature

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-7-6

03-3563-4129

Monday – Saturday 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Closed Sunday and holidays

http://dons-nature.jp/e/steak.html

 

 

Hiyama in Ningyocho for Wagyu 人形町の日山

Hiyama in Ningyocho for Wagyu 人形町の日山

Hiyama in Ningyocho for Wagyu 人形町の日山

Hiyama in Ningyocho for Wagyu 人形町の日山

Hiyama in Ningyocho for Wagyu 人形町の日山

Hiyama is renowned for its wagyu for sukiyaki, shabu shabu, or for steaks. Next door to the restaurant is a retail shop selling the gorgeously marbled Japanese beef. Pricey, but worth having once in your life.

Hiyama 日山

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-5-1 中央区日本橋人形町2-5-1

Tel. 03-3666-5257

Monday – Saturday, 11:30 – 14:00, 17:00 – 21:00; closed Sundays and holidays

http://www.hiyama-nihonbashi.co.jp/ (Japanese)