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Wagyu Tasting Notes: Shabu Tatsu, Yakiniku West, and Takashi

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Eater’s resident carnivore offers notes on some recent wagyu-centric meals around NYC

[The beef at Takashi]
[aNick Solares]

Since returning from filming a series of The Meat Show in Japan last month, I have been rather obsessed with Wagyu beef and its variants and have been seeking it out around town. Here are some tasting notes on recent visits to NYC restaurants:

Shabu Tatsu recently received a special shipment of prized Hidagyu beef from Japan that I sampled shabu shabu-style (the restaurant also offers yakinku style cooking). I put the Hidagyu beef up against an order of the same ribeye cut fabricated from what the menu claimed was USDA Prime Grade Black Angus beef. While the Japanese beef was impossibly marbled, displaying more fat than meat, the Black Angus beef did not look to be prime at all, so scarce was the white inflection in the muscle. The latter tasted OK, but was a little chewy when swished appropriately in the steaming cauldron at the table. The Hidagyu beef by comparison was both more flavorsome and far more tender, and because of its high fat content, did not shrivel up the way the domestic product did. At $80 for the same portion of thinly slivered beef, the Hidagyu was probably not $51 better than the $29 Black Angus. But thus is the law of diminishing returns. Shabu Tatsu, 216 E 10th St # St1, New York, NY

Yakiniku West: This cozy, if slightly rundown Japanese steakhouse offers just enough tradition — you must remove your shoes — coupled with conveniences for clumsy gaijin like seats rather than kneeling tables to make one comfortable. I have enjoyed genuine Japanese Wagyu beef here many times over the years, but unfortunately there was none on offer during a recent visit. Instead, I opted for "American Wagyu" which is a cross of the Japanese black Wagyu breed and domestic herds like Angus and Longhorn. I also sampled some domestic Angus ribeye. Both were good, the edge going to the American Wagyu, due to better marbling and a gentler chew. Cooked over an electric grill that provided just enough heat to sear the outside while leaving the inside a mid-rare both provided a respectable carnivorous experience, and good value for money. Yakinku West, 218 E 9th St, New York, NY

Takashi: One of the great meals I ate this year was in Osaka, Japan at a restaurant that only sold offal from Wagyu cattle —stomach, sweetbreads, tripe, liver, tongue, etc. It was a humble little kappo-style restaurant run by a husband and wife, and the food was cheap and utterly exquisite. As a carnivore, I feel there is a moral responsibility to eating beyond the prime cuts, and feel that offal and cuts like navel and cheeks, can be just as delicious when handled properly. Which is why I am thankful for Takashi, which offers a wide range of offal, in addition to more pedestrian offerings like ribeye and short rib. Unfortunately they don’t currently offer Japanese Wagyu, and even if they did, the offal would not be imported to due to safety restrictions. But Takashi does offer both Angus and "American Wagyu" and I sampled cuts from both — a ribeye and chuck flat, respectively. Both were delicious cooked yakiniku style over electric grills at the table. The flight of tongue was not nearly as tender as that of true Japanese Wagyu, the base of the muscle proving especially tough. Similarly, the stomach tended to be rather chewy. I think that braising might have been a preferable approached to both cuts. On the other hand, the sweetbreads, heart, and liver all responded wonderfully to the quick searing on the grill, rendering them creamy, steak-like, and mineral-rich, respectively. Takashi also offers some interesting composed dishes such as a ramen quesadilla and beef tartare. All in all, it’s a fun place to eat, just be wary of long wait times, and no reservations for parties under four people. Takashi, 456 Hudson Street NY NY

Takashi

456 Hudson Street, Manhattan, NY 10014 (212) 414-2929 Visit Website

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