By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Every gourmet knows Wagyu (which literally means “Japanese cow”), the famous Japanese beef that fetches prices three times higher than prime cuts from other countries. Often referred to as the “foie gras of beef,” Wagyu is exquisitely tender and has a divine luxurious taste.
It is often called “the most expensive beef in the world,” with brands such as Matsusaka beef being praised as cultivating the “art of meat”.
Many restaurants – outside of Japan – use the word ‘Wagyu’ and ‘Kobe’ interchangeably, which is inherently wrong. While every Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. And while Kobe Beef is arguably the most famous Wagyu beef amongst foreigners, discerning diners and Japanese natives will know that Matsuzaka Beef is actually cremè de la cremè. The ultra-delicate meat instantly melts in your mouth, leaves a sweet aftertaste and sends you into paroxysms of rapture. Needless to say, it is the most expensive beef out of all types of beef in Japan.
Matsuzaka is raised in Mie Prefecture in Japan and is considered one of three “Kings” of beef, the other two being Kobe and Ohmi. Four criteria determine how high the quality grade is: marbling, meat colour and brightness, firmness and texture of meat, and colour, luster, and quality of fat.
As such, A5 is the highest grade that wagyu can get and, also, the most expensive.
Most chefs recommend Wagyu steaks be cooked a little longer than those from Western countries – medium-rare or even medium. Otherwise, “they can be like eating a stick of butter”.
Health-conscious eaters may be wary of the web of fat (called “shimofuri”) woven through slabs of Wagyu. However, pure Wagyu contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (aka “the good fats”) rich in omega-3. One study from the Japan Livestock Industry Association says Wagyu has up to 30% more unsaturated fat than Angus cattle.
I recently had the pleasure to have a total immersion in Wagyu Beef as well as Single Malt whiskeys at 9’s the newly opened restaurant in Ipoh Garden East. It was two separate evenings of total indulgence and extravagance as a small group of us gathered at 9’s to sample their delectable fare.
Dato’ Foo Chee Kean and his glamorous sister Dato’ Yen Foo were most affable hosts as they explained the specials on the menu while introducing their exclusive collection of wines and single malts.
Top selection on the menu is naturally the Matsuzaka beef, which in this case is a Grade A5 with a marbling factor between 10-12. We tried two different cuts on the two separate occasions.The first was a sirloin weighing around 300g, which was cut into thick strips and grilled at the table. Served medium rare to medium, the meat was unbelievably well marbled and could literally be cut with a fork. It also meant that one strip (see pic on top right) was more than enough for me. Served with crispy potato wedges, it could have been a whole meal but other dishes were waiting!
The second occasion, we had the tenderloin which for some of my friends were preferable especially for those averse to fat! Although I did try to explain that Matsuzaka beef fat was high in omega-3 and therefore heart healthy! The tenderloin was equally tender though. Matsuzaka Sirloin RM300; Tenderloin RM330 per 100g.
We started with a Mushroom Soup with black truffles, the special mushroom (truffle) lifting the ordinary mushrooms into a deliciousness all its own; RM28. Next came an authentic fusion dish: oriental ‘har cheong’ or Chinese prawn paste which imparts its own inimitable taste and aroma (anathema for some westerners as in durian) chicken wings, grilled to perfection, the prawn paste permeating into the skin and meat right down to the bone; RM23.
We were then wooed with the Iberico Pork Collar, oozy drippy chunks of pork neck and collar which is known to be one of the best parts to eat. This was well marinated and roasted to perfection; RM55.
All the while tasting the culinary offerings, we were being plied with drinks of the highest quality although all the regular pours are available.
9‘s prides itself on carrying a stock of the finest vertical range in Ipoh of Macallan (Sherry and Fine Oak 12-18 years) from RM320-RM1100 per bottle; Dalmore (12,15,18, 21, 25 years) from RM350-RM4500 per bottle; and Glenfarclas (25 years: RM1000, 30 years: RM2500 and 40 years: RM5000 years) single malts, not to mention their cellar of Chateau Lafittes, Latours Margaux’s and other venerable French wines which as every connoisseur of wines knows, the sky is the limit in price depending on vintage.
While the price for Matsuzaka beef may strike some as high, there is a silver lining for those who like their single malts and their beef. From June onwards for 2 months, 9‘s is running a promotion where you may purchase one bottle of their single malts and get 50% off one of their mains. Plus they will mark your intake level on the bottle, put your name on it and seal and keep it for you till your next visit. Talk about the ideal opportunity to get your fill of Matsuzaka beef! But of course you will have to like single malts. Or bring someone who does!
9’s may be plush, posh and ritzy but you can actually go in and have a good meal for two and come away paying less than $100 per head. Not all menu items are that hard on the pocket. There are soups, salads and other items among which the Fettucine Carbonara at RM23, Pizzas from RM20-26 all guarantee a hearty meal. And not forgetting their Signature Tiramisu which goes for RM22.
So go on, poke your nose in, have a soup and salad and if splurging is the order of the day or night, then splurge right ahead. You won’t regret it.9’s Grill & Cafe28 & 30, Jalan Medan Ipoh 4, Bandar Baru Medan, 31400 Ipoh.Tel.: 05 547 3868Opens from 5pm-12am. Closed Tuesdays.GPS: 4°37’ 03.6”N 101° 07’ 12.2” E