Thickly cut steaks and top-shelf Scotches are at the very top the list of ways to burn your money in exchange for a few minutes of gustatory joy. And now, someone has come up with a three-course menu marrying the two of the most luxurious items: steak and whisky.
Is it overkill? If you're a connoisseur of both steak and whisky, not at all. Will you have a severe case of the meat sweats after the meal? Of course.
The menu, aptly named "Cut & Whisky," comes from the brilliant mind of chef Andreas Roller of the underrated restaurant Nick & Stef's in downtown LA. It is one of the only restaurants in LA that dry-ages its own meats. After tasting the menu (priced at $150 per person) and speaking with the chef about the thought process behind the pairing, I am happy to announce that the menu is not a gimmick nor simply Instragram bait, but a thoroughly thought-out journey into the deepest pleasure centers of the human dining experience.
A mere bite of a two-ounce cube of grilled A-5 Japanese Wagyu beef from Mizayaki Prefecture chased with a small sip of Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese whisky will confirm this. The oaky, dark-roast, sweet notes of the alcohol washing down the charred fat of the buttery A-5 will have you loving life like you never have before. The same can be said with the four-ounce cut of prime New York strip, dry-aged on-premises for 30 days, paired with a snifter of Blanton's Kentucky bourbon, and the four ounces of Snake River Farms American Kobe rib-eye with a glass of Highland Park's 12-Year, Non-Islay Scotch.
The menu is inspired by Roller's travels to Japan, which explains the tsukemono pickle board and perfect koshihikari rice cooked in deep-sea cave water that arrives to your table when you order. He tells me over the phone that every time he goes to Japan, he brings back a new food item and tries to understand it. The last time he visited, it was whisky, which resulted in him offering the Japanese-slanted steak and booze pairing at the restaurant as an off-menu selection available only to regulars. As it grew more popular, it became a regular menu offering.
Roller admits that the pairing sounds crazy at first, but it somehow just works. The pickles are meant to cleanse your palate in between different cuts in the same way that pickled ginger does when eating sushi. "My focus was on the beef. To get that side-by-side comparison and taste the difference in texture and flavor between each cow is an incredible experience. The breeding, feeding, and the way farmers treat their cattle all make a big difference." He grills all the beef on Japanese binchotan charcoal and each cut is simply seasoned with salt and pepper—nothing else. All of the whiskies are served straight, not in a cocktail nor watered down. It follows the minimalist Japanese feel of the meal.
"We are trying to keep it as straightforward as it gets and let the ingredient speak for itself," says Roller.
As for the price of the dinner, it's definitely a special-occasion affair—but not too crazy, given that a piece of genuine A-5 Japanese Wagyu goes for about $150 per pound and a bottle of the Nikka is priced at $65 (both retail).
Now, the question is: How is anyone supposed to go back to boring ol' wine pairings?