Beefing up Beijing's fine dining
Updated: 2011-03-03 07:55
By Todd Balazovic (China Daily)
From left to right: Poached Tajima 9 plus wagyu beef at Aria restaurant, served with a savory mixture of mushrooms, shallots, pancetta and potatoes; Surf and turf au poivre at CRU Steakhouse. Provided to China Daily
As Beijing's luxury market continues to grow so too do people's palates for fine dining.
The latest culinary creation to get the capital's taste buds tingling is the world's most expensive steaks. Two fine dining restaurants in Beijing are serving up steaks from cuts of the most tender and succulent meat sourced from thousands of miles away.
Offering an exclusively sourced beef sirloin, Aria, located at China World Hotel, is one of Beijing's top spots for digging into a gourmet cut of one of the world's highest-rated meats.
With the recent arrival of Aria's new Chef Matt McCool, recent winner of Timeout magazine's coveted Chef of the Year Award 2011, came China's only source of Blackmore wagyu beef from Australia.
McCool, who has spent the last several years working in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe and Australia, including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey's Maze, said wagyu beef is best known for its marbling - the marbling in the beef gives better quality as it improves the taste and juiciness of the meat.
While most beef served in restaurants is crossbred, wagyu is from purebred Japanese cows and is regarded across the globe as among the best beefs around.
"Crossbreed beef does not have the same eating experience as full-blood Japanese wagyu beef," McCool said.
He said even before getting on the plane to Beijing he was talking with exclusive providers in Italy and Australia before finding Blackmore, which he says is the "world's best wagyu producer".
With this exceptional meat, McCool has created his culinary masterpiece - 200 grams of poached Tajima 9 plus wagyu beef, served with a savory mixture of mushrooms, shallots, pancetta, and potatoes.
Apart from exclusive sourcing, McCool said one of the biggest differences he hopes to bring to Beijing is an appreciation for different foods.
"I have tried not to change the identity of the food too drastically but I want to help it be adapted and to help coach Aria's guests into some new territories," he said.
Beyond the food, guiding guests through the experience of fine dining is also an important part of a good meal, said Aria's food and beverage Manager, Matt Lance.
He said giving diners the story and background of the food they are about to indulge in gives people a chance to fully understand the intricate art that goes into fine dining.
"That's what we are here for - to make the little details count," he added.
For those who like to mix it up between land and sea, CRU steakhouse offers some of the finest surf and turf in the capital.
Located in the JW Marriot out by the Fifth Ring Road, CRU recently bolstered their menu, offering a massive selection of oysters and some of the juiciest cuts of steak.
CRU chef Vincent Roulle said he hopes the new beef and seafood combo will tickle the taste buds of diners.
"There is no better combination than a great steak served with some light seafood," he said.
While working to perfect his knowledge in meat mastery, Roulle said he also understands the cultural element of cooking not just for Western diners, but for Chinese diners as well.
Roulle said he recognized that big cuts of meat are a rarity on Chinese dinner tables, but has found a way around the different dining styles.
"I've had several occasions where I've taken one of our steaks and cut it into small pieces so it could be put in the center of the table and shared by all," he said.
Roulle said the restaurant's most rare dish, dry-edge beef, features a rare cut of high-quality beef that has been boiled and then refrigerated for 20 days, making the meat extremely tender and tasty, he said.
"We're the only one doing it in Beijing," he said.
While Roulle guarantees the dry edge to be hit, he said his true culinary specialty is smoked salmon, smoked over the course of three days and served to whichever lucky customers who are smart enough to snatch it up while it is hot. "If you have the right product, you don't have to worry about anything else," he said.
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