Flavour that’s both delicate and rich
Wagyu, literally meaning Japanese cow, is the cream of the crop, the caviar of the cow kingdom. Silky. Buttery. Rich. Tender. Savoury. Umami.
When shopping for Wagyu, the savvy customer will notice that there are many different options—from the highest-grade beef imported from Japan to cows raised in Australia, the USA and also right here at home. A delicacy once only to be found in Japan, Wagyu was first brought over to farms in Ontario in the 1990s.
What sets Wagyu apart from other cows? Wagyu cattle are raised with one goal in mind: supreme flavour. And big flavour comes from the high amount and quality of fat, which takes a combination of nature and nurture to achieve—upwards of 30 months of love compared to 20 months for non-Wagyu animals. Rumour even has it that, to keep the cattle eating during the hot summer months, some Wagyu breeders feed their prized cows beer!
If you are concerned with the high fat content of Wagyu, you can feel better knowing that the fat is the “good stuff”—monounsaturated and chock-full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Besides, Wagyu is both too costly and rich in taste for the average person to eat any potentially health-affecting amount. Japanese Wagyu has a 70–80 per cent fat content … try chewing on that!
There are four distinct groups of Japanese Wagyu: Black, which comprises close to 90 per cent of Wagyu cattle; Brown/Red, the second most popular outside of Japan; Shorthorn; and Polled. Each animal comes from a pure and traceable bloodline. In Japan, the National Livestock Breeding Center (NLBC) keeps detailed information about each cow, including a record of ancestry, birthplace and fattening days. As such, restaurants and butchers have a 10-digit tracking number for each animal that links back to the NLBC database! Moreover, there is a grading system that assigns each animal with a Yield Grade (A–C, with A being the highest) and a numerical Quality Grade (1–5, with 5 being the highest), based on marbling, quality of fat, firmness/texture and colour. Unlike other breeds of cattle, Wagyu yields high-quality beef from most parts of the cow.
Why is Wagyu popular? A lot of it comes down to mouthfeel, which for Wagyu is silky, rich and satisfying. With most beef, you can really taste the texture of the meat in your mouth. Wagyu, on the other hand, has a silky texture that almost melts in your mouth like butter.
Now, it’s time to eat your exquisitely marbled piece of beef. There are a number of different ways one can cook Wagyu at home, from throwing it on the barbecue to making dumplings, “swish-swish-ing” (shabu shabu) finely cut pieces of Wagyu in a hot pot of seaweed broth, enjoying sweet Wagyu sukiyaki or even going the most minimalist route and making Wagyu tartare. Some farmers’ markets also sell Wagyu hotdogs! However you choose to cook it, you’ll want to have some dipping sauces on the table. Popular choices include a sesame sauce, ponzu-citrus sauce or miso sauce.
If you’d rather not experience anxiety-related sweats as you fire up the barbecue holding a $60 steak, there are a number of fine Toronto restaurants serving up unique and mouthwatering Wagyu dishes.
Wagyu in the city
Mouth watering? Stomach rumbling? Here are some options sure to satisfy.
You’ll find that most restaurants favour Wagyu preparation methods that really let the flavours of the beef take centre stage—no overwhelming sauces or sides.
JACOBS & CO. STEAKHOUSE
Wagyu’s regional differences make it truly unique, McCallum says. Whether the cows drink the Kanto region’s mineral-rich waters or snack on Okinawa’s fruits, you can taste it in the meat.
McCallum keeps his Wagyu simple—a touch of salt, a sprinkling of pepper. It’s then seared and sliced into thin pieces to be shared, sometimes with a citrus-ginger soy sauce. McCallum wants people to taste the individuality of the meat and recommends avoiding any overpowering sides—maybe a sip of water between bites.
Right now on the menu: a shareable 50-oz. Japanese Wagyu steak from Nagasaki.
Hours: Sun–Tues 5 pm–10:30 pm
Wed–Sat 5 pm–11 pm
Contact: 12 Brant St., Toronto
Chef Michael Parubocki cooks the Wagyu on a robata grill that was imported from Japan. This special grill runs extremely hot and uses binchotan charcoal, the highest- quality charcoal available. According to Parubocki, Wagyu should be treated with care, and is best served medium rare. Parubocki believes that there is no need to “mask” Wagyu with a heavy sauce, and that it is best served on its own, with the kitchen’s house-made steak spice.
Price: Soy butter fried rice $9
Robata-grilled Wagyu $15
Wagyu beef carpaccio $24
Wagyu striploin $120 (14 oz.)
Hours: Mon–Sun 11 am–close
Contact: 115 Yorkville Ave., Toronto
At Katsura, you have two choices from the regular menu: a 5-oz. Wagyu steak featured as part of the six-course Kiritsubo omakase meal, and a 5.5-oz., premium-grade (A4, marble level 9) Wagyu striploin, served with wasabi and soy sauce. Over on the popular teppanyaki side of the restaurant, you can feast on teppanyaki Wagyu beef and vegetables cooked right in front of your eyes. Ginger-garlic and white-wine mustard soy sauces are served for dipping.
Price: Wagyu striploin $64
Kiritsubo omakase meal $120
Hours: Sun–Mon 5:30 pm–9 pm
Tues–Fri 12 pm–2:30 pm, 5:30 pm–10 pm
Sat 5:30 pm–10 pm
Contact: 900 York Mills Rd., Toronto (at the Westin Prince Hotel)
416-444-2511 or 647-259-3230
These skewers are grilled to perfection on a charcoal grill using natural Japanese charcoal. The beautifully marbled American Kobe Wagyu is best grilled to medium rare where it is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It is served with a side of homemade Oropon sauce, which is a grated radish and citrus sauce that adds a fresh, tangy flavour. Zakkushi also offers a charcoal-grilled Wagyu steak for those looking to make a full meal of Wagyu beef.
Price: Premium Wagyu beef skewer with Oropon sauce $6.80
Hours: Sun–Thu 5:30 pm–1 am
(last call: 12 am)
Fri–Sat 5:30 pm–2 am (last call: 1 am)
Contact: 193 Carlton St., Toronto
At Kingyo Toronto, there are two Wagyu options. From the menu, you can choose Wagyu grilled on a hot stone (“stone grilled Kobe beef”), where customers literally grill their beef on a large, hot stone right at their table! This dish is served with Japanese-style BBQ and salty lemon sauces, sliced lemon and greens. Though it’s not on the menu, you can also sometimes dine on Wagyu steak. Inquire if interested.
Price: Stone grilled Kobe beef $29
Hours: Sun–Thurs 11:30 am–3 pm, 5:30 pm–11:30 pm
Fri–Sat 11:30 am–3 pm, 5:30 pm–12 am
Contact: 51B Winchester St., Toronto
SUSHI BAR SUSHIYA
Sushi Bar Sushiya is your destination if you’re wanting to try Wagyu sashimi or sushi. It’s currently being offered as a monthly special for June and July. Each order is served with a homemade soy sauce, some spicy wasabi and an Oropon (or oroshi ponzu) sauce, which is ponzu sauce made with grated radish and onion. Sushiya sources their Wagyu from the United States.
Price: Wagyu sushi $4.80 (per piece)
Wagyu sashimi $15.80 (8 pieces)
Hours: Thurs–Mon 5:30 pm–12 am
(last call: 11 pm)
Contact: 193 Carlton St., Toronto
FãMu NATURAL MEATS
FãMu offers various cuts of Wagyu as well as full Wagyu meals to take home and cook. There are two basic meal options: first, shabu shabu, which comes with kelp to make the broth at home, fresh veggies, house-made organic noodles and dipping sauces. Second, the sukiyaki option comes with organic noodles, vegetables and sukiyaki sauce. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t sweat—there are plenty of helpful video tutorials online to guide you through the meal preparation!
Price: Shabu shabu sets from $60
Sukiyaki sets from $55
Hours: Tues–Sat 10 am–7 pm
Sun 11 am–6 pm
Contact: Unit 8, 3160 Steeles Ave. E., Markham (in the J-Town plaza)
Premium steak that makes the grade
Savour top-quality beef at Ginza Steak, Tokyo’s finest all-you-can-eat steakhouse.
There’s no shortage of steakhouses in Japan, but Tokyo’s Ginza Steak serves up something truly unique. This all-you-can eat restaurant specializes in preparing various cuts of A5-grade black Wagyu (Japanese beef). All Wagyu is meticulously graded based on its marbling, its colour, the firmness and overall texture of its meat, and the quality of its fat—with only the best-quality beef achieving a rating of A5.
Ginza Steak serves up its A5 Wagyu in a variety of styles, including Shabu-Shabu, Sukiyaki and Teppanyaki, with all Teppanyaki orders being cooked and served in the traditional tableside method. The most highly recommended course is the Gokujou (finest) Wagyu course (¥9,800 before tax), which includes an appetizer, soup, salad, foie gras and hot plate vegetables, followed by a selection of tenderloin, sirloin and shank Teppanyaki. A Teppanyaki meal always begins with the chef’s selection of the day’s best meat, after which you can order any meat you choose—as much as your stomach can handle. After the Teppanyaki, you also have your choice of rice, stew and dessert, that is, if you still have room for it. With this much food, you might want to have a light lunch to prepare yourself!
Ginza Steak’s premium beef is complemented by an extensive wine list, selected from the award-winning wine catalogue My Wine Club and published by Belluna, their parent company. Head Chef Yoshiharu Kanazawa has been working in the culinary industry for over 25 years, and ever since he took the helm at Ginza Steak, the restaurant has been flourishing. With the original restaurant expanding plus a second location opening this fall, it’s evident that Ginza Steak has found their niche balancing quality and quantity, all within a reasonable price point—one mouthwatering dish at a time.
Granbell Ginza II 8F, 1-5-5 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open: Mon–Sat 4 pm–11 pm • Sun closed
Photos courtesy of Ginza Steak