In the world of carnivores, the latest craze is wagyu beef, one of the hottest imported items around that has been appearing in upscale yakiniku restaurants and top-notch steak houses here in the Islands. Wagyu translates to “Japanese cow,” and the variety we’re most familiar with is Kobe beef — although that is just one example of the select group of Japanese cattle breeds that are considered to be wagyu.
So what is the big deal about this particular type of beef, which nowadays is produced in many parts of the world?
For one, wagyu cows have been selectively bred — and sometimes cross-bred — for years and are valued for their extremely high-quality fat marbling, or shimofuri, which stems from their genetics. This fat translates to meat that is unbelievably tender — so much so that it melts in your mouth like butter — and unmatched in flavor, aroma and sweetness.
When determining the highest grades of wagyu, Japan Meat Grading Association looks at qualities such as marbling, brightness and color, firmness and texture. The better the quality, the higher the price, of course.
On these pages, Ono, You Know has found you both a classic steak presentation of wagyu, as well as some more creative ways to enjoy this truly unique beef.
FROM STEAK TO RAVIOLI
Whenever you are dining at The Kahala Hotel & Resort — whether enjoying an upscale dinner at Hoku’s or a casual afternoon tea at The Veranda — you can expect superlative island ingredients crafted into a worldly array of cuisine.
I had a feeling the hotel’s culinary staff would take an exquisite approach to wagyu, and, boy, was I right.
At Hoku’s, the signature restaurant brimming with flavors of the Mediterranean and the Pacific, Grilled Miyazaki Wagyu Striploin (market price) thrills the palate. The dish has been so well received that chef de cuisine Hiroshi Inoue decided to keep it on his newly debuted seasonal menu. Five ounces of glistening, juicy and intricately marbled wagyu beef are accented with caramelized edges from the grill. The tender meat is served with the richest of red wine ginger XO glazes, while a large slab of portobello mushroom, potatoes and other steak-friendly vegetables complete the meal.
One thing I love about Hoku’s menu is that it offers wine pairings for each dish. The perfect glass for wagyu? A cabernet sauvignon from Justin Vineyards in Paso Robles, California.
The restaurant’s new dishes — such as Sauteed Hokkaido Scallop & Spicy Calamari with tomato fondue, potato gnocchi and squid ink-crab essence sauce — also are worthy pursuits, as is heading downstairs to Plumeria Beach House for Wagyu Beef & Truffle Ravioli ($20).
At the oceanside eatery, the ravioli is paired with Hamakua mushroom and tomato ragu, and Parmesan cheese. Trust me, ravioli never tasted so elegant, as the truffle perfectly pairs with the wagyu’s delicate essence.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave., Kahala
dining reservations: 739-8760
Though Fendu Boulangerie is a locally owned bakery, customers get much more than just deliciously fresh loaves of bread and pastries. They also can take advantage of savory options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from sandwiches and pizzas to pot pies and soups.
In the sandwich department, there’s one that spotlights our star ingredient of the week: Ground Wagyu Beef Sandwich ($11.25). This hearty, hand-crafted selection showcases a 1/3-pound patty of ground wagyu beef lightly seasoned and pan seared. It’s tucked into a rustic bun with Maui-grown tomatoes, sauteed sweet onions, pickles, mayo and fresh farm greens.
Chef, owner and baking maestro Niel Koep says he enjoys using wagyu in this burger-like sandwich because it offers more than your average hamburger patty. “It’s beef that actually has a flavor, so with this sandwich you can enjoy the flavor of the beef,” he says.
Koep notes that the wagyu is complemented by the additional ingredients, rather than overwhelmed by them, “and it smells great when it’s cooking!”
As for the rustic bun, it’s prepared at Fendu with a mixture of wheat and potato flours to provide the right texture for the dish.
Fendu Boulangerie opened seven years ago at Manoa Marketplace. Throughout his menu, Koep is dedicated to a made-from-scratch approach, utilizing fresh, high-quality ingredients. In addition to signature items — which include the Miche wheat rye country sourdough loaf and Lychee Streusel Danishes, among others — the bakery offers seasonal specials throughout the year.
2752 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu