March 1, 2014

Death by meat

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I'm not a steak guy.  As much as I love to eat, I never understood the notion - especially in Asia - that a big dinner out means a piece of steak.  Not to belittle the people who cook a nice piece of steak, but for me there's very little creativity involved when you're eating a steak.  Sure, there's a certain amount of skill required to get it done right, but it's really more about the quality of the meat and not about the skill of the chef - which is the value-add that I'm most willing to pay for.

So I was very hesitant when I was approached by a PR friend to join the second Steak Rebellion - a pop-up by the Butcher's Club.  I explained the situation.  Surely there was someone else in town who was more worthy of this seat?!  S/he would certainly appreciate the steak far more than I would.  I was already scheduled to attend a wine dinner at the Butcher's Club later on in the month, so I would write about the dry-aged steaks anyway...  But the PR insisted, and eventually I relented.  Yes, I would come and see what this brouhaha was all about.

My evening, though, started a few hours before dinner.  I met up with the Specialist for a drink at the Blue Bar inside the Four Seasons Hotel, and foolishly followed her lead in having something alcoholic.  It didn't work out so well for me... as I was buzzed before I even got to dinner...

32 Via dei birrai Nebra - very light and sweet on the palate a little floral thanks to the elderflower.  My kind of beer.

Pretty viscous with noticeable sediment.

Negroni - very well made.  Punchy bitterness, but rounded on the palate at the same time.

I had about an hour in the office to drink lots of liquids and try to get rid of my buzz... and then I headed for The Space - where the pop-up was being held.

They had set up an oyster bar on the ground floor, but I wasn't really interested at that very moment, and bypassed it to go to the dining room upstairs.

The decoration tonight was an old chophouse, with straw scattered on the floor, pig's heads hung on the walls, and slabs of meat hung from the ceiling on meat hooks.  They had guys dressed up as butchers in wife-beaters and wenches walking around.

I was introduced to Jon Glover, who showed me around the place and led me out the back door to get a look at their food truck.  Yes, it was literally a truck, loaded with meat inside, and a barbecue was set up on the liftgate and fired up.  As this was a pop-up and they're not licensed for this space, this make it handy for them to move.

When our table was all assembled, the food started to arrive...

The Butcher's Club charcuterie - very yummy 48-month jamón ibérico.  There was also some very tender pickled veal tongue, which I just couldn't stop eating.  The corned beef brisket was a little on the salty side, but tasted pretty good.  Finally there was boerewors, a South African sausage that was pretty tasty, too.

The charcuterie platter came with fresh baked beef fat basted bread, house crackers and pickles.  Not bad...

Then Jon came around each table to show us our meat, and carve each steak in front of us.  It sure was a fine lookin' piece of meat...

Next thing we knew, we had our nicely charred, 14-oz. 45-day dry aged USDA Prime ribeye steaks in front of us.  The meat had been rubbed with spices and grilled on high heat, creating a charred exterior.

Yes, the meat was cooked à point, and I had no complaints whatsoever.  The extensive charring on the exterior was a little on the bitter side, but there was plenty of flavor here.  In fact, I didn't add anything to the meat for the first quarter of it, because it was tasty enough as it was.  They had some beef fat salt but I didn't think it added much...  The apple and tarragon ketchup was a much better companion, as the sweetness helped smother the bitter flavors of the crust.

Not bad, eh?

Cooked thrice in duck fat hand cut steakhouse fries - I normally don't go for fat fries, but these were the exception.  Ohhhhh boy...

Oh and we also had some organic garden leaves with balsamic vinaigrette, but I didn't bother taking a picture...

I didn't touch the "formage by Xavier" Fourme d'Ambert or Coupe de Corne, as I was really full by now...

... and I would much rather have the Joreen's famous New York cheese cake, graham cracker crust, blueberry caramel.  This was creamy alright, but not as thick as real New York cheese cake.  Still, I gotta say this was pretty yummy.  Would have had a second slice if I didn't think I would burst...

As I came to dinner slightly intoxicated, it took me until the middle of dinner to grab my first sip of wine.  Being the wine snob that I am, I didn't have any expectations until I saw that the wine was made by Susana Balbo, whose white wines I remember fondly.

2009 Dominio del Plato BenMarco Malbec - smoky, forest, minty, a little jammy with blackcurrant.  Palate was a little weird and oxidized. Later on it was just undrinkable. Blegh.

I was done.  Couldn't fit a sliver more.  So I bid my dining companions farewell, thanked the PR who twisted my arm, and headed home with a third of my steak in a doggie bag...

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