Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Leslie Burnside, the chef-owner of Theresa & Johnny's Comfort Food in San Rafael, let us know how taken she was with the sfogliatella at New York's Ferrara, co-owned by executive baker Ernest Lepore. Now comes Lepore's turn to tell us which dish recently rocked his world. Ernest, what's your pick?
Who: Ernest Lepore, co-owner and executive baker at Ferrara, New York City
What: Kobe steak
Where: Boa, Hollywood
"Me and my brothers traveled the world for food. When I tell you Boa on Sunset has great steak, I’m serious. Their Kobe — it’s truly the Louis Vuitton or higher of what steak wants to be. It’s like it’s risen to the highest form of steak. I was in the other day and I ordered the Kobe, and the best I can describe it was better than the steak my mother served. Back in the seventies there weren’t so many steroids; it was natural beef. The company knows how to buy great beef.”
We asked Brent Berkowitz, the operations manager at Innovative Dining Group, who designed Boa's menu, what makes this beef such a specialty:
"Wagyu is actually the cattle that Kobe is known for. Wagyu is the species of cattle and Kobe's technically a prefecture in Japan. So it's like saying 'Champagne.' It's sparkling wine, but it happens to come from Champagne. Wagyu comes from Kobe, so people call it 'Kobe.' But you can have it from Matsuyaki and all these other things. We are getting it right now from a company called Washugyu, which is wagyu from Washington, and actually a proprietary name. We’ve always worked with these guys for our domestic wagyu.
There's one way and only one way to eat Kobe steak. What we usually do is broil our steaks at very high temperatures. This is our normal steaks. Salt and pepper, blah, blah, blah, blah ... A Kobe steak is a little different. Because of the intense amount of fat, it needs to be cooked quickly and it needs to be seared hard. The searing adds a tremendous amount of flavor.
We season it very heavily with salt and pepper, and we cook it on a cast-iron pan, smoking hot, or a smoking hot flattop, depending on what restaurant you're at, and you develop a very nice crust — make sure it's perfect. Then we let it sit for about five minutes and it goes out to the table. Our chef suggests Kobe or Wagyu should be eaten at medium, even though you might like medium-rare. The natural luxury of eating this piece of meat is the inter-muscular fat, the marbling, and you want to be able to warm the meat up enough internally to allow the fat to melt and self-baste. That gives the flavor."