Master butcher Numamoto prepares the holy grail of Japanese food.
Last month Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse opened its doors to a very special guest: Japanese master butcher Noriaki Numamoto. In front of a crowd of influential Toronto butchers and restaurateurs, Mr. Numamoto demonstrated how to cut and prepare the Japanese culinary wonder that is wagyu beef.
Even those with no butchering experience in the crowd were drawn in by the graceful, methodical way that Mr. Numamoto transformed a massive top sirloin and bottom sirloin into their various cuts. His unique style of butchering, as he explained it, involves understanding the structure of the meat so that he can use his knife not to cut the beef but rather to encourage it at points where it would naturally separate. He has become so skilled in this style of butchering that he can feel exactly where his blade is in the meat and stop his cuts just before his knife touches the cutting board!
However, this artful demonstration by Mr. Numamoto was only half the fun. It would be a pity to waste such masterful cuts of meat, so as each cut was nished Jacobs & Co.’s executive chef Danny McCallum whisked them away to the kitchen. He returned with samples, perfectly prepared in a number of different ways: from the light searing you’d expect of a quality steak, to slices of wagyu carpaccio dressed with salt and yuzu.
If you’ve never tried wagyu beef, it is an experience worth seeking out at one of the handful of Toronto businesses licensed to prepare or serve it. The sirloin cap or Ichibo, as Mr. Numamoto referred to it, is the most prized cut. When perfectly cooked by a talented chef like Mr. McCallum, the texture of the meat is somewhat surreal to behold. It quite literally melts in your mouth, giving a mouthfeel closer to delicate sashimi— but with all of the flavour of perfectly marbled beef, seasoned simply with salt and pepper.
The best place to experience wagyu beef for yourself would be Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse, where it is regularly available on the menu and the chefs are experienced in its preparation. If you’d like to try your own hand at cooking wagyu, head to licensed retailer FãMu Natural Meats in J-Town.
“Kobe beef vs. Japanese wagyu beef: What’s the difference?”
“Kobe beef” is a familiar term in North America, but the term “wagyu” is less known. Seiko-san, from J-Town’s FãMu Natural Meats, explained to us the difference between these terms.
The best way to understand the distinction is by comparing the beef to sparkling wine. Japanese wagyu beef is like champagne: sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France under strict regulations related to production and quality standards. Though each Japanese prefecture can produce its own type of beef, it must adhere to strict regulations to be classied as wagyu (such as cows being genetically 100% wagyu, with an ancestry that can be traceable up to three generations).
In our champagne example, there are champagnes that stand out as the most exclusive types, like Dom Pérignon. Kobe beef is a similarly exclusive type of meat produced in Hyogo Prefecture, and it is seen as the Dom Pérignon of Japanese wagyu. Hyogo’s quali cation and product transport systems are very strict, meaning every party—from breeder to retailers and restaurants—must be qualified and registered.
When it comes to wagyu beef produced outside of Japan (and things like kobe-style or wagyu-style meat), these products are similar to sparkling wines. Though individual producers may adhere to strict quality standards for their meat, their quality and processes are not strictly regulated like their Japanese counterparts.