Christine Cunanan-Miki savors Tokyo’s first genuine dry aged beef steak
There was a time when New Yorkers bemoaned the lack of a proper steak house in this big, cosmopolitan, cuisine-rich town. Of course wonderful melt-in-your-mouth freshly-cut wagyu (Japanese beef) is available everywhere in Tokyo, typically pan-fried with garlic and served with rice, miso soup and pickles. But, as any steak-loving person from that particular part of the United States will tell you, wagyu is delicious but different, and dry aged beef steaks — such as those served at the Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn and for sale at Lobel’s Prime Meats in Manhattan — are in a class of their own. And once you get hooked, it’s just hard to get that meaty, earthy taste out of your head.
So it was with much anticipation — and some reservation (how could a restaurant properly age its own beef in Tokyo after all, unless they were willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money?) — that some welcomed the opening of Porterhouse Steaks in Nishi-Azabu late last year. Well, I’m happy to report that Porterhouse Steaks is Tokyo’s first genuine dry aged beef steakhouse (they actually own the trademark for dry aged beef in Japan) and the answer is, yes, it did spend a lot of money and an extraordinary amount of effort to set up its own top-rate beef aging facilities here.
Porterhouse Steaks dry ages its locally-sourced beef in a made-to-order humidity-controlled refrigerator for at least 40 days. The result is spectacular meat that is evenly marbled and not fatty in taste, with a consistent chewiness and a deep flavor that does not need any kind of extra seasoning except good old salt and pepper.
On the night we dined there, my husband and I decided to split a 21 oz. Porterhouse (¥11,000) so that we could have both sirloin and fillet. We watched with mouthwatering anticipation as they first grilled and smoked our meat in charcoal and wood to brown the outside (just until that point when you can smell burnt meat, we were told) and then placed it in the oven to cook the inner portion. Then, just before serving, it was re-grilled over charcoal for a finishing touch.
We knew we were really in a serious steak house when the chef offered to collect our steak bone afterwards and re-grill this so that we could truly enjoy scraping the piping-hot leftover meat from the bone (which is the best part of the T-bone steak, by the way!). We were impressed by the variety of sauces (three kinds of mustard) and side dishes as well, which included generous servings of creamed spinach (¥1,000), large steamed asparagus (¥1,200), a creamy cheese risotto (¥1,200) and crispy french fries (¥700).
Finally, make sure to leave room for dessert because the selections are few but formidable. Our favorites were the hot gateau au chocolat (¥1,200) which was a crunchy dry cake with melted chocolate inside, and the apple tart with earl grey ice cream (¥1,100). And, just in case any New Yorkers still needed more comfort food from home, the restaurant does a mean version of the New York Cheesecake (¥1,100).
WHAT TO EAT
The beautifully arranged and almost shockingly Fresh shellfish platter appetizer ( ¥6,400 for two persons), which includes oysters and king crab, is truly a feast for the senses. We also liked the caesar salad which came with large chunks of charcoal-grilled bacon (¥1,400) and the mushroom cream soup (¥1,400), which combined different kinds of wild mushrooms with slivers of onion. Of course the piece de resistance is the dry aged beef steak, which ranges from ¥6,500 to ¥11,000 depending on cut and size, and the sidings to go with it.
WHAT TO DRINK
This is a steak place, but it has excellent reasonably-priced white wines by the glass to accompany seafood, including a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (Morton Estate, ¥1,260) and a Napa Valley Chardonnay (Morton-Pellier, ¥1,470). For red, a Washington Syrah (Columbia Crest, ¥1,260) went wonderfully with our porterhouse steaks.
WHERE TO SIT
We took the grand tour of this elegant restaurant and found the non-smoking banquette table (#23) in the basement the best for atmosphere. There’s a good view of the bar and of Porterhouse Steaks’ floor-to-ceiling display of wines, but it also has enough privacy for a cozy dinner for two – or even for four or six.
HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
Expect to spend between ¥25,000 to ¥30,000 for a proper full-course steak dinner for two, with several glasses of wine.
WHO GOES THERE?
Foreign Investment bankers and stock brokers, New Yorkers wanting to get their steak fix, and lots of fashionable-looking Jараnese.
WHO TO ASK FOR
Perfectly bilingual Taku Teramoto, the resident sommelier and all-around guy, will be happy to take your reservations by phone and help you organize your dinner as well.
Faro Nisbiazabu IF, I-S4-4 Nishi-Azabu, Mlnato-ku, Tokyo