Before the 1970s, American ranchers did not have any of these Japanese cattle, known as Wagyu. Wa means Japanese and gyu means cattle (in Japanese, naturally). The Japanese government didn't allow any exportation of cattle until 1976 when four Wagyu animals were imported into the US. Five more head were imported in 1993 and another 35 in 1994. Now American ranchers have bred these cattle with American stock and are raising them with the same feed techniques the Japanese ranchers use.
USDA Prime beef has a 6-to-8 percent fat content whereas Kobe beef can have a fat content as high as 25 percent fat. Because of this, Kobe beef steaks should not be grilled over high heat since the high level of marbling will melt and cause a flare-up on the grill. The best way to prepare Kobe is to sear it.
Today, American ranchers, such as Snake River Farms in Idaho, are producing a Wagyu style of beef. In Charlotte, Kobe beef and Wagyu beef have been on the menu for a while. John Thompson at the Lamplighter had a $50 Kobe steak as a mainstay on that menu for years until they closed five years ago. The popularity of the low-carb diet has caused a recent spike in the appearance of Kobe/Wagyu on area menus. Most restaurants, however, run Kobe/Wagyu specials rather than featuring them as a core dish.
But some restaurants have Kobe on the menu. A soon to open restaurant, the Bentley on 29th, in the former Tower Club in the Charlotte Plaza Building, 3rd and College, plans to open this fall with a Kobe steak on the menu.
At Monticello, Executive Chef and Chief Executive Manager Paul Verica has a Grilled Wagu (sic) Ribeye: 12 ounces of American breed Wagyu cattle served with sauteed arugula and roasted vegetables tossed in a blue cheese vinaigrette and topped with crispy fried onions for $51. This dish has been one of their biggest sellers.
Monticello 235 N. Tryon St, 704-342-1193.
Red Rocks Cafe Bar and Bakery serves a $10 Matt Kobe Burger which is eight ounces of Kobe beef grilled and served on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and onion.
Red Rocks Cafe Bar and Bakery, 4223 Providence Road and in Birkdale in Huntersville. 704-364-0402.
At Aquavina, Innovative Contemporary Seafood, Chef Jason Pound serves Kobe beef on both the lunch and dinner menu. At lunch you can find a salad with marinated Kobe flank steak sliced thin and served with baby arugula with white truffle dressing and shaved parmesan crostini for $14. At dinner Chef Pound makes an appetizer called Kobe Caps. "We take the flank," Pound explained, "grind it and make it into a meatball and stuff it into a field mushroom." The caps are finished with a smoked tomato glaze. Three caps are $10.
Aquavina, Innovative Contemporary Seafood, 435 South Tryon Street, The Ratcliffe on the Green. 704-377-9911.