How to Order Wagyu Beef Like You Know What You're Talking About
Chef David Walzog knows more about steak than you. Before he became the executive chef at SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas, Walzog ran kitchens at New York’s Monkey Bar, Michael Jordan’s Steak House in NYC, and three Strip House restaurants, earning him local and national acclaim for his ability to put meat over flame. Twelve years ago, when hotel mogul Steve Wynn needed a chef to helm his namesake steakhouse at his namesake Vegas hotel, it's no surprise that Walzog got the call.
Besides enjoying endless summer in Nevada and life on a literal resort, being the man in charge at SW Steakhouse comes with a culinary perk: the opportunity to put authentic wagyu beef on the menu. Forget your happy hour spot with the “Kobe sliders." Real wagyu—of which Kobe is only one form—comes straight from Japan, goes through an authentication process as intense as its marbling, and can only be found at a handful of restaurants in the entire United States.
“We couldn’t be prouder of that,” says Walzog. “It only happens a few places in the world, and thankfully this is one of them.”
Esquire reached out to Chef Walzog to dispel the Kobe confusion and teach us the right way to order wagyu.
Wagyu is cooked low and slow.
Cooking well-marbled meat is all about melting it internally. We try and cut it into about 4 inches square, 3/4 of an inch high. You want to go low and slow to help it melt, render, and redistribute that fat through the beef, which gives it flavor. It’s about getting that internal part of the muscle sort of melted out. You have a much better product than cooking it hard and fast.
Omi is a great entry-level wagyu.
For a western palate, Omi tells the tale of Japanese wagyu without becoming unrecognizable. It’s by no means tough or even like domestic beef, but it has a little tooth to it, compared to some of the other opulent, silky stuff that we offer.
Expect to spend.
We have guests who come in and just want to try wagyu—which is great—but we had to put something on the menu for people to recognize that it’s a big ticket item. We sell it in 4-ounce increments—that starts at $220, and it goes up incrementally from there, $55 per ounce. As an individual, you really don’t need much more than that. The richness and decadence of a 4-ounce piece of wagyu is quite sufficient to experience.
Order it medium.
They ask me all the time, “What does the chef prefer?” I say order it however you want, but I happen to think it’s a medium. You want to get good heat in it and have that rose color as opposed to red, and it just eats a lot better. It’s more robust, the flavor is just crazy—it almost blooms.
If you really want to taste the quality of the meat, you want it to lay on its own. We do serve a little whiskey-barrel aged sh?yu that’s kind of a nice dipping sauce, but salt, pepper, and you’re done.
Pair it with a Cabernet or Bordeaux.
You’re looking for the rich tannins and some sort of acid to compliment the richness and fattiness of the steak.
Kobe burgers are a lie.
It doesn’t work! It wouldn’t eat like a burger, it would be more like a piece of foie gras. If you were to grind authentic Japanese beef, you would have to put things in it to absorb some of that fat. There’s this loose verbiage of “Kobe”—whether it’s hot dogs or beef—that people are kind of throwing around as a recognizable name, like Kleenex. Don't believe the hype.
For your Wagyu steak fix in Manila, try Wagyu BGC.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.