Category Archives: Meat

Niku Steakhouse — Where Japanese Wagyu Reigns Supreme

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

 

Some chefs wear their hearts on their sleeve.

Steve Brown takes that to an extreme — wearing his passion prominently and permanently inked on his forearm.

The executive chef of the splashy new Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco has “A5” (the highest grading for Japanese Wagyu beef) tattooed on his right arm, so there’s no doubt as to what his favorite ingredient is.

You can see for yourself if you snag one of the 18 seats — truly the best seats in the house — at the counter that surrounds the massive grilling station. That was my vantage point recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, opened by the Omakase Group, about one month ago.

Executive Chef Steve Brown's tattoo says it all.

Executive Chef Steve Brown’s tattoo says it all.

Sitting here is a primal, visceral experience, as you’re just inches from the flames of the hand-cranked main grill that can get up to 900 degrees to cook American prime steaks, and the small custom-built Japanese grill heated with binchotan white charcoal on which the Wagyu is seared.

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Greek Spicy Aromatic Braised Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas

Big, meaty lamb shanks braised with nutty chickpeas.

Big, meaty lamb shanks braised with nutty chickpeas.

 

Besides my KitchenAid mixer, the workhorse of my kitchen — especially at this time of year — is my Dutch oven.

In bewitching cobalt and made by Le Creuset, it’s an investment that has paid off handsomely in the many satisfying soups and stews it has cooked slowly, evenly and nourishingly.

So I grabbed it immediately when I spied the recipe for “Spicy Aromatic Braised Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas” in the newest cookbook by chef, cooking school owner and Greek cuisine expert Diane Kochilas.

“My Greek Table: Authentic Flavors and Modern Home Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours” (St. Martin’s Press), of which I received a review copy, is all about the dishes that Kochilas cooks at home for friends and family, be they classics or innovations inspired by Mediterranean ingredients. There’s everything from “Whole Wheat Baklava Muffins” and “Greek-Style Tuna Melt” to “Artichoke Moussaka with Caramelized Onions and Feta” and “Ouzo-Glazed Chicken Wings.”

My Greek Table

This lamb dish, originally from the islands of eastern Aegean, will require you to use your largest Dutch oven on hand, as six shanks take up quite a bit of real estate.

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Wagyu Everything at Gozu Pop-up at Avery

Wrap our heads around this: yellowfin bone marrow. At the Gozu pop-up at Avery restaurant.

Wrap our heads around this: yellowfin bone marrow. At the Gozu pop-up at Avery restaurant.

 

Gozu, the Wagyu beef-centered restaurant, isn’t expected to open its doors in the South of Market area of San Francisco until May. But it’s already opened my eyes to the possibilities of this prized, specialty Japanese beef.

Last week, I had the pleasure of dining as a guest at one of the three nights that Gozu hosted a pop-up at Avery in San Francisco.

The $95 per person tasting menu featured four dishes from the Avery’s Chef Rodney Wages, an alum of The French Laundry in Yountville, and Benu, Atelier Crenn, and Saison, all in San Francisco; as well as four dishes from Gozu’s Chef Marc Zimmerman, who cooked at Nobu, Restaurant Guy Savoy, and Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco. Two supplemental dishes also were available for an extra charge.

Like its predecessor in this Fillmore Street locale, the elegant Korean-influenced Mosu, Avery continues the tradition of having no sign out front. The windows are opaque, too. So, just look carefully for the numerical address, and you’ll find it just fine.

The two-story restaurant is quite compact, and done up with grays and black to give it a chic air.

The upstairs dining room.

The upstairs dining room.

Chef Marc Zimmerman of the forthcoming Gozu (left) and Chef Rodney Wages of Avery (right).

Chef Marc Zimmerman of the forthcoming Gozu (left) and Chef Rodney Wages of Avery (right).

For the first half of the meal, before the restaurant got too full, the two chefs both brought out their dishes, hand-delivering to the table. Zimmerman says he got the idea for a Wagyu-focused restaurant after traveling through Japan. There, casual robata-style eateries specialize in Wagyu and make use of every bit of the pampered, outrageously marbled cows.

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Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

 

Winter’s chill begs for a robust dish.

One that demands an equally powerful wine alongside, too.

So stir up a big pot of “Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta” and pop open a bottle of Italian Barolo — and you can’t go wrong.

The recipe — and pairing — is from the new “Wine Food: New Adventures in Drinking and Cooking” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Dana Frank, a Portland sommelier who co-owns the wine bar Bar Norman and urban winery Bow & Arrow; and cookbook writer Andrea Slonecker.

Wine Food Cookbook

Packed with more than 75 recipes, this book makes pairing easy and understandable, by not only suggesting the best wine for each dish, but giving recommended producers, too.

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A Sneak Peek at Northern California’s First Shake Shack

Get ready for fried chicken on a potato bun at the Bay Area's only Shake Shack.

Get ready for fried chicken on a potato bun at the Bay Area’s only Shake Shack.

 

You might as well get in line right now because hordes are no doubt going to descend upon Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto on Saturday when the first Northern California Shake Shack finally opens.

Yes, the wildly popular gourmet burger chain by New York’s Danny Meyer will finally open its doors in the Bay Area. It is right next to P.F. Chang’s in the ritzy outdoor mall.

Opening hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. And the first 100 people through the doors on opening day get a free Shake Shack travel bag.

Last night, I had a chance to get a sneak peek and taste when I was invited to a media preview party.

The Palo Alto Shake Shack in Stanford Shopping Center.

The Palo Alto Shake Shack in Stanford Shopping Center.

The menu boards.

The menu boards.

The interior features reclaimed and repurposed materials.

The interior features reclaimed and repurposed materials.

The 2,491-square-foot former Wells Fargo bank building features outdoor as well as indoor seating, including tabletops made of reclaimed bowling alley lanes.

It’s also cashless. You place your order at self-serve kiosks.

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