This one is for the serious beef lovers.
When CUT started selling real Kobe Beef last year, I thought I could finally close the book on Japanese Wagyu. Having tasted Matsuzaka, Oumi and finally Kobe, I had covered what is widely considered the top three Japanese Wagyu brands and didn’t think that there was a Wagyu which could top that, except for maybe the Mishima Wagyu, the only Original Native Japanese Cattle breed left in Japan. I learnt about this very exclusive beef on an episode of Iron Chef. However, the meat is not commercially available and is only accessible by royalty or the very rich and famous, so I had written it off as something I would never get to taste.
Ok, don’t get your hopes up, Chef Josh did not manage to procure Mishima beef. But this year he did bring in a very exquisite, boutique Wagyu from a private reserve called Uenae Lake Farm in Hokkaido. The owner of the farm is apparently a dermatologist with a penchant for beef and a drive for perfection which may be considered obsessive even for the Japanese. His singular goal is to produce a beef with the finest, most intricate reticular pattern of intramuscular fat possible. As you can see from the photo above, I think he managed to surpass even the Kobe A5 ribeye!
The farm produces 2 heads of cattle per month and the meat was only used for their own restaurant. Now one portion is also sent over to CUT Singapore. So there is only two places in the world where you can taste this beef.
I managed to compare the Kobe and Hokkaido Snow Beef side by side. Flavourwise, the Kobe tastes a little beefier but the difference is small and you probably would not be able to tell unless you do a side by side tasting. However, the texture of the Hokkaido Snow beef is very distinct. Whilest the Kobe is already luxuriously juicy, the Hokkaido Snow Beef has a very pleasing and satisfying chew which is quite extraordinary even for Wagyu! With the Kobe, you will still be able to discern the meat fibres while chewing, but the with the Hokkaido, the meat is so finely marbled that you could hardly detect the fibres.
However, it doesn’t feel like you are chewing on a piece of pure fat either. The Wagyu has a distinct characteristic which differentiates it from other cattle breed in that the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat is very high. (1) In addition, the ratio of intramuscular fat to backfat is also very high. What this means is that more fat is found in-between the muscle fibres (resulting in better marbling) then under the skin (that layer of fat in a sirloin) compared to other beef cattle breeds. Intramuscular fat is has quite a different texture vis a vis back fat. That layer of fat on a sirloin steak can be quite chewy and get stuck in between your teeth. But intramuscular fat is meltingly tender and because it is high in monounsaturated fat, it actually melts at a lower temperature as well. So when that Wagyu steak is cooked to medium rare, the backfat may still be quite tough but the intramuscular fat has already reached melting temperature and easily dissolves in your mouth when you chew on it! 4.5/5
This is a rare experience for serious beef lovers. The Hokkaido Snow Beef has a very distinct texture and fine marbling that edges out even the A5 Kobe beef. I would recommend that you order a portion to be shared as it is extremely rich and eating a whole steak can be too much of a good thing. It is, however, one of those defining moments in any food lover’s gastronomic journey.
1. Meat processing 2002 CRC Press
Many thanks to Chef Josh for his kind invitation to taste the beef!