Japanese Omi, Japanese Kobe, Australian wagyu, US wagyu
With Lent and fish and green things out of the way, it’s time to get back on the caveman diet track. That means meat. Good thing for us that Dallas has plenty of star-worthy steakhouses to keep us well-fed. One of the best of them (and certainly the most high-flying) is Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse, where chef Samir Dhurandhar and his cheffy team of Scott Romano and Taylor Kearney laugh in the face of choice grade beef.
To prove it, they’ve been secretly selling caveman Krypotonite, prime beef so prime-beefy they pierce the ceiling of the USDA grading charts. Hell, they nearly clip the top of the Japanese Beef Marbling Scale, too.
Take a look at the first photo in the series above. See those four tenderloin filets in Taylor Kearney’s beefy hands? They’re all wet-aged filets. All the highest grade beef you can buy. Unlike, say, rib-eyes and strips, tenderloins don’t typically have much intramuscular fat, those white streaks between muscle fibers. These are exceptionally well-marbled filets.
Check out the steak at the top left. That’s the highest grade beef you can buy (and import) from Japanese steer. It’s from a purebred Japanese Wagyu steer raised in the Shiga prefecture (which is also where Ninjas are from. Coincidence? I don’t think so). Kobe beef is a select breed of Wagyu raised in the Kobe prefecture (though not always…that part gets tricky). Kobe, of course, is also a tasty cut, tender and highly marbled with fat, and we all know that fat means flavor.
That filet on the bottom left, just below the Omi? That’s the Kobe. Both the Kobe and the Omi grade out to an A5 rating, the highest grade in Japan’s most frequently used grading scale.
Now turn your taste buds to the two steaks on the right. At the top is an Australian prime Wagyu filet on the top. Below that is an American prime Wagyu (sometimes –incorrectly– called American Kobe)filet.
All four of these steaks came from steers that would grade out as USDA prime, the highest grade awarded in the USDA beef grading scale.
Now look again at the two on the left. I’d call those two SuperPrime, which, like an appetite suppressant at EscapeHatch HQ, doesn’t exist.
Kearney and Romano and Dhurandhar want you to try Prime and SuperPrime. All of it. See for yourself if they’re worth the hype and the money, because this stuff is expensive. The Omi, for example, sells for $45 an ounce. Yep, an ounce. That’s $720 a pound. Kearney says he sells through 40 or 50 pounds of the stuff every month.
And that’s limited only because Kearney can’t get his hands on more. The sole rep for Omi beef in the US told me that only 10 Omi filets make it to our shores a month. Almost half go to Nick & Sam’s. “No one else can sell them in that volume,” the rep told me. “Dallas goes crazy for that beef.”
The A5 Kobe filet, imported from Japan, sells for $34 an ounce. Kearney says it, too, flies off the broiler.
Is Omi worth the money? Let’s jump past the how-you-doin and get to the kiss: That omi is earth-shaking good. And at $45 an ounce, it had damn well better be.
But here’s the thing: that filet is so rich, you won’t want to eat more than a couple of ounces. I rubbed a pea-sized piece of each of the filets between my thumb and forefinger. Only the Omi and Kobe melted away like butter.
To find out if their taste justified their price, Kearney and I cut a four-ounce portion of each of the filets, sprinkled them with a heavy hand of kosher salt and cracked pepper, then seared them for three minutes under a 1,400 degree broiler. Then we chose our weapons and dug in.
The Omi tasted like no other wet-aged filet: earthy and rich, with a steely minerality that reminded me of grass-fed beef and white truffles. Its texture was like butter. You could, quite literally, cut it with a fork. The Kobe was slightly firmer, putting up the barest resistance to the tines of my fork. Its flavor was deeper though less pronounced, like tuna tartare straight from the ocean in the way it dissolves in your mouth then vanishes in an instant.
The Australian prime Wagyu delighted me with its soft texture and notes of citrus, possibly the result of a little more age interacting with the sear of a 1,400 degree broiler. “Can’t cut it with a fork,” I wrote in my notes, “but the knife slides through it like sashimi.” Good stuff. But not Omi.
And the American “Kobe style” Wagyu? “Firm and bland,” I wrote. “What’s the point?”
So there you have it. Yes, the Omi and the Kobe are worth the splurge. And yes, Nick & Sam’s will sell you a similar sampler platter if you ask.
My advice: Take four friends and order four-ounce portions of each, cooked rare or, if you must, medium rare. A four-ounce filet is thick enough to support a nice sear on the outside while staying perfectly rare on the inside. Any smaller and you sacrifice one for the other.
Or you can throw caution and your company’s Centurian card to the wind. Go big. Order a half-pound filet for yourself and a half-pounder for your sig-o. Kearney says the Edmonton Oilers went through 106 ounces of Omi at Nick & Sam’s. You’re better than the Oilers, right?
“Some people have no trouble buying ten or 12 ounce filets,” Kearney told me. But honestly, three or four ounces is plenty.