Why Wagyu?

I mentioned in my last post that the Hubs and I took our (what’s becoming) annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas earlier this month. Oh, how I love that place. I know everyone says that, but really. I do. People have asked me on more than a few occasions, “What do you guys do in Vegas?” For a while, we were kind of embarrassed to fess up, but now we bravely tell people that we go to Vegas to eat.

There is no where else on Earth where you can eat at one of the finest chefs’ restaurants every night for over two weeks without repeating. Because we only go for a few days at a time, the planning begins long in advance. As soon as the airfare and hotel are booked, I begin thinking about where I’d like to eat while I’m there. Then I make a list. Then I narrow it down and narrow it down. I’m not joking. It gets quite involved.

Steakhouses have been on our list of places since went there way back for our honeymoon. There are just so darn many of them. Vegas has its share of old school steakhouses, which I love, but this time, I wanted to be “wowed.”

“Wowed” I was.

I picked Tom Coliccho’s Craftsteak in the MGM Grand. I started out my search for a steakhouse looking for a place that served grass-fed steak. I love grass-fed steaks first and foremost because of the beefy beef flavor, and secondly because I believe in how these cows are raised. Sadly, most places serve grain-fed steak and are proud of it. I found this amazing website that someone who takes steak very seriously put together. It breaks down the science behind steaks: wet aged, dry aged, wagyu, kobe, certified angus beef. Knowing that I’m a grass-fed flavor fan, I opted for a steakhouse serving dry aged steaks. Craftsteak was the website favorite overall. After also consulting Yelp, the call was made and we had our selves a date with some fine red meat.

I’ve never had the opportunity to try Wagyu beef before. So, I dove right in. I ordered the domestic wagyu skirt steak. Jeremy ordered a strip steak from their regular beef menu, which was Certified Angus Beef (C.A.B.), so we could compare the two side by side. But we were surprised to learn it was like comparing apples and oranges.

Let me explain. Wagyu refers to a breed of cattle native to Japan. This breed is known for its high marbling–or the distribution of fat throughout the muscle. Actually, domestic Wagyu is a crossbreed between full-bred Japanese Wagyu cow and an angus cow. A ranch in Colorado is pretty much the exclusive supplier of domestic Wagyu. Traditionally, these cows are amazingly well-cared for. They are fed a diet of alfalfa, barley, corn, wheat straw, and beer. And they are massaged. Beer and massages sound like a pretty nice life for people, let alone cows! Because of the even and broad distribution of flecks of fat throughout the muscle, steaks from Wagyu cattle are much more tender and juicy. Which is exactly why I was able to order “skirt” steak as a grilled steak entree. The cut that is skirt steak is a generally more lean and tough cut because the fat content is lower than other cuts. But because of the even marbling of Wagyu, it works. This steak was so tender, I laid my knife on the steak, sharp side down, and the weight of the knife itself cut the steak. I’m not even kidding.

Wagyu skirt steak with stewed onions and demi glace.

The Wagyu skirt steak was 14 ounces, which is a larger portion than I would usually haveliked, but I wanted to share it with Jeremy. And it was so good, we ate every last bite. It came cut into strips, which I thought was weird, with stewed onions and demi glace. We shared an order of grilled corn, which one Yelper dubbed “crack” corn. I can understand why. I don’t know what it had in it besides a little salt, butter and cilantro, but damn, it was good.

Jeremy’s C.A.B. strip steak and “crack” corn.

The C.A.B. strip steak was wonderful; one of the best I’ve ever tried. But you couldn’t even compare it to the Wagyu. It was completely different. We enjoyed a roll from the complimentary bread that was brought to the table in a small cast iron casserole, but we didn’t want to fill up too much before we got to the “meat of our meal.” Speaking of filling up before we got our entrees, I wanted to take the Wagyu experience to the next level, so I ordered the Wagyu steak tartare as an appetizer. I’ve never tried steak tartare before, so I figured why not go all out. Unfortunately, I’m probably ruined now. The next time I order steak tartare, it most likely won’t be Wagyu, and I’ll be dissappointed with it. Steak tartare is a dish of finely chopped raw marinated steak, usually served with toasted bread and a raw egg yolk on top. Ours was the classic version with a quail egg yolk. It. Was. Amazing. We practically licked the bowl.

Our waiter was great and a wealth of food knowledge. I had about a dozen questions about Wagyu beef, seeing as how I am a food nerd. We ordered our steaks medium rare, and after I’d gotten the Wagyu steak, I was asking him about what it’s like when it’s cooked medium well, given the high and even fat content. It seemed to me that it could be really dry and would burn easily, once all that fat started to render out from the cooking. He said that that they do serve them medium well, and that it actually only takes a few minutes to get to that doneness. He said they will grill them quickly and finish them in the oven so as to not burn them or dry them out.

Craftsteak offers a few different menu options, including a couple tasting menus, which you get to sample most of the menu, including several different types of steak. Since it was the two of us, we figured there was no way we could eat all that food. But if we would have been in a group of four or six, this is definitely the way to go. It’s probably cheaper and a good way to get to try a little bit of all the amazing offerings. Even just with a couple rolls, an appetizer, a shared side dish and a steak each, we left feeling stuffed to the gills but in a state of total steak bliss!

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