Prime vs. Kobe

It’s not a question about price. Hands down, the more expensive beef is authentic Kobe (and to a lesser extent, American-style Wagyu). At Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas, the Kamoshima, Japan A-5 Kobe Filet Mignon costs $40 per ounce and there’s a four-ounce minimum. But would a prime steak suit you better? Buzz Beler seems to think so.

The legendary owner of The Prime Rib, a D.C. institution (check that dress code!), spoke to me at length for my steak sauce piece in the Washington Post. Not everything got in, of course. Case in point, this anecdote about Kobe vs. prime:

If you were in Japan, and you went to a true Kobe steak—not this stuff over here that they call Kobe, pseudo-stuff—and tried to put a sauce on one of those steaks, they’d probably chase you down the street with a samurai sword, you know what I mean?

But speaking of Japanese beef, we had a party, the restaurant had a party for the president of Kazakhstan … So they said the president would like some Japanese Kobe beef. I should’ve said, “Look, we got great beef, you’ll like it.” Anyway so I was like, “Alright, you want your Kobe beef?” He had the money to pay for it. There weren’t that many of them there, except for the security. But we’re closed on Sunday anyway, so it was perfect for me. But they wanted them rated 8-10 which, if you look at them, they’re almost white. It’s so marbled, it’s almost white. Now what I got was 8-10, that’s what they want. They cost me, I bought them in New York, $140 each.

Now when they came, there were supposed to be 15 guests. But when the steaks came, I took two of them over to Kaz’s place [Kaz Sushi Bistro]. Kaz [Kazuhiro Okochi] is the best when it comes to sushi, no question about it. I said, “Kaz, I want you to look at these steaks.” He looked at them, he said, “Buzz, they’re the real thing.” I said, “How long you cook them?” He said about a minute to a minute-and-a-half on each side, but they’re practically all fat…. So [the president of Kazakhstan] got them steaks, but when he saw our Signature Prime Rib being served to the security people near him, he said, “I want to see that beef.” And we brought it over—and believe me, these guys can eat—and he ordered the same thing for all his personal guests. And believe me, he was ecstatic, not only over their size, but the flavor.

I mean, there’s nothing in the world like American corn-fed beef…. I mean, I don’t begrudge anybody else, but like I said before, if you go back to Escoffier, they had sauces. But they had them for filet mignon because filet has little flavor. Now our USDA prime filets have some flavor to them. You come to the restaurant some time, I’ll show you how they’re stamped…. But Escoffier had 75 sauces for filet … because most filets have little flavor. Okay, that’s a different story…. Let me tell you something: I will put Heinz 57 sauce up against a lot of those sauces they’re making. Mandy [Mandell] Ourisman, he loves [laughs] … but he eats chopped steak and so he puts Heinz 57 on it.

Photo by Jiashiang Wang

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