This month is a riot of ribeyes, a sizzling collection of six steakhouses.
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The idea was to compare the two. Angus are the classic American beef cattle, originally bred in Scotland; Wagyu cows made Kobe beef famous, for flavor, tenderness and marbling.
American-raised Wagyu is sometimes called American Kobe or, inaccurately, Kobe beef. However, all American Wagyu cows are crossed with Angus, to help them withstand winter. It’s not the same cow as a Kobe steak, nor raised the same way.
The kitchen, figuring out three people intended to eat two steaks pupu- style, sliced them beautifully. They were evenly medium rare, nicely browned around all the edges, seasoned only with sea salt.
The Angus was reasonably tender, had the rich classic steak flavor, with the full range of amino acids and minerals. It was, without being tough, a little al dente, chewier.
The Wagyu was not as flavorful upfront, but you would encounter pockets of beef so deeply marbled—so soft, so seductive—they made you swoon with pleasure.
This sort of experience seldom comes cheap. The Wagyu steak cost $75 and for that you got … the steak.
People complain about how pricey high-end restaurants like Alan Wong’s and Stage are, but whoa, only a steakhouse can get away with charging you a fortune for the protein and an extra $8 for each of the sides.
You want sides. The grammar of the meal dictates at least a gesture toward vegetables—asparagus in hollandaise, creamed Kula spinach (a little too rough cut for my taste), some sautéed Hamakua mushrooms.
Of course, you also want a starch; perhaps a little iron skillet of sliced potatoes, Gruyère and sliced Maui onion.
The bill for three, with tip, was $350. That included only two entrées, remember, and only two of us were drinking (a cocktail, a glass of white with the sea-food, a glass each of Etude pinot noir with the steaks).
It did include desserts—some chocolatey “spring rolls,” with orange dipping sauce; a crème brûlée flavored with dark rum, which made you wonder why all crème brûlée aren’t flavored with rum; and a mango float made with ginger beer that totally rocked.
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I took a friend who feels much the same way. He wondered out loud how anyone could roll around a cart filled not only with raw steaks, but also a live lobster out of water.
That said, we finished the evening agreeing: What Morton’s did, it did fine.
We began with plump, sweet Pacific oysters from Washington State, shucked perfectly so you didn’t have to dig them out of their shells.
The by-the-glass list had a perfect wine for oysters, though we disagreed which it was. My friend opted for the Maso Canali pinot grigio (which, if you have to have pinot grigio, is an quality choice, an esteemed old house). I thought the nice citrusy Kim Crawford Marlborough sauvignon blanc worked much better.
I was trying to eat the same thing each time, a bone-in ribeye, of which Morton’s had a massive 20-ounce version of Midwestern Prime—done up Chicago-style, which meant the outside edge was thoroughly charred and delicious, even the rim of fat on the meat.
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