Does it surprise you that beef is now being graded?
Back when I was a small kid, beef used to just be cow’s meat bought in open air markets that we call “palengke” in the Philippines. No one used to bother what breed of cow it came from..each piece was the same, the only difference being the part of the animal from which the meat was carved off. And back then also, grade was just a level in primary school, and had totally nothing to do with cows.
Fast forward 3 decades, beef now comes with weird names – Angus, Wagyu, Kobe…and the meat is even graded! The higher the grade, the more “marbling”, the more expensive. And we’re saying it’s the cows that went mad?
Though I like to travel and try food from different places, I’m not really a big fan of high-priced dining. I try it just once in a while, for experience, but I would really rather spend on fuel surcharge than foie gras. I am however, a sucker for beef – especially steak – that piece of raw animal grilled over open fire – barbaric and graceful at the same time. And I have long wanted to try that fatty marbled wagyu steak that people would spend a fortune on, however there’s just something too “elitist” about it to suit me, but one evening I just had to try it, and get it over and done with.
My wife brought me to the House of Wagyu Stone Grill, at their newest branch at Two E-com Center at the bayside area near the Mall of Asia (MoA), otherwise called as the “Prism Plaza”. If you haven’t been anywhere near this area, the Prism Plaza is that uniquely shaped building with a hollow in the center, around two blocks north of MoA.
The Wagyu Stone Grill is a typical high-end resto. Lighting is subdued – evoking a candle-lit dinner feel, cutlery comes in several sets – one for each course, and all drinks get served in tall stemmed glasses, not to menion the attention given by the wait staff. One thing that makes the place a bit extraordinary though is the way food is served – it brings a new definition to the term “cooked right infront of you”. My wife and I shared a 350lbs “grade 7” rib-eye, split evenly into two, and served on two searing hot slabs of rock. Unlike in most steak houses, you don’t tell the waiter how you like your steak done – you set the done-ness yourself. The meat is practically raw as it goes out of the kitchen, and only starts cooking as it gets placed on the hot rocks and is carted over to your table. If you like your meat a little “juicy” (or bloody in other words), you can lift it off the rocks a few moments after it reaches your table. Otherwise, you can let it stay there for a little longer to get it a little more done. I took mine not too long after it got served, and it was still red inside when I put it on my plate. Good thing about it though is that you can put pieces back into the hot rock just to brown it a little bit more, before you start chewing it.
The meat was as what you would expect from high-priced wagyu. Very tender, and chewing it down seems as effortless as it is fulfilling. Seasoned with just some salt – with no gravy or any kind of sauce – it was the epitome of “natural goodness”. It is expensive yes, but you have to admit that this is not your everyday slice of meat. Wagyu is just one of those things that are as ridiculously expensive as they are ridiculously good. Don’t tell the cows how much you’re paying for it though – they might think you’ve gone mad.
* Photos taken last July 2012, with Panasonic Lumix LX5