Steak houses are almost always associated with special occasions. It’s where men pop the question, couples toast to anniversaries, and families gather for important milestones. For an esteemed brand like House of Wagyu, eating steak is not about devouring a premium cut of beef. It’s about being a home to people who celebrate memorable moments in their lives.
In a convivial and relaxed dinner at its Shangri-La Plaza branch, Corinne Castañeda, the quick-witted woman behind House of Wagyu, and Executive Chef Ika Mortell made us, a handful of invited guests, feel truly at home as they introduced their dry-aged Wagyu steaks.
“We offer 40-day dry-aged Wagyu, and we came up with the length of days of dry-aging after more than half a year of research and testing. For the meat that we buy, we decided that the aging period is from 40 days up,” Castañeda said.
Fresh beef is often aged for a period of time to improve its taste and texture. The common kinds of steak are wet-aged. “Dry-aged beef is distinctly different but more often than not, only a steak person or lover can tell the nuances between wet and dry-aged beef. By dry-aging, we monitor and control the temperature and humidity of the beef’s environment. There’s a lot of meat sacrificed because you have to remove the pellicle or the hardened layer of meat and fat during the course of the aging.”
“The pellicle serves both as protection and a way to preserve the raw flavor of the meat, thus we are left with a bolder and more intense taste. By dry aging beef, we are able to remove excess moisture and keep it tender,” Castañeda expounded.
Castañeda is very hands-on with how their beef is aged. She monitors the conditions surrounding the meat through her phone, chooses the slaughter date, and plans the schedule of the dry-aging.
She, however, emphasized, that at the core of this sophisticated procedure is their commitment to serving high quality meat. They import regularly to ensure the freshness of their ingredients.
Building the momentum of sampling the meticulously dry-aged beef, we first relished servings of Oysters Rockefeller and Gambas al Ajillo paired with fresh, crisp Prosecco. The gambas were soaked in a decadent sauce of white wine and olive oil, spiked with a siling haba. A creamy Pumpkin Soup and Caesar Salad followed and thereafter, the pièce de résistance: a 220-gram slab of dry-aged Wagyu rib eye.
For at least 40 days, the meat was aged in a Dry Ager that controls air flow, temperature, and humidity. The precise conditions make the meat lose over 30% of its weight, further intensifying its Wagyu flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.
In House of Wagyu’s signature style, the beef was served with a hot stone (sprinkled with a bit of sea salt) on which the rare steak would be cooked to one’s preference.
“Here, you live out your dream of being a chef. Depending on how you like your beef, you have control whether you like it rare, medium, or whatnot. Of course, we do advise that you just quickly sear the beef just enough to caramelize the skin and enjoy its tender meat,” Castañeda explained.
As the beef touched the hot stone lathered with beef fat, a heavenly sound was heard and after some seconds, it was ready. The meat was not dry and retained its natural juices. Finally, it showcased a varying range and depth of flavor profiles from savory, sweet, and even earthy. It was sublime!
Because of the superb quality of the beef, sauces were not needed.
“I want diners to experience the natural flavor of steak. We don’t usually serve sauces because we want our guests to appreciate the spectrum of bold and subtle flavors of the meat,” Chef Mortell shared.
With servings of Flourless Chocolate Cake à la mode (presented on a cold stone) and Cheesecake with summer berries, our dinner at House of Wagyu ended on a sweet note as we took home insights on dry-aging and a renewed appreciation for premium steak.
House of Wagyu, L/G East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong, (02) 637-6538