Ed from Tomato has posted about a wagyu tasting night at Jamon Sushi. He asked if any other bloggers would be interested. There was only suppose to be 8 all up, but such was the interest, 13 people ended up going.
The attendees included
* Cindy and A from A Few of My Favourite Things
* Claire from Melbourne Gastronome
* Danny and Mellie from Tummy Rumbles
* Myself and my friend
* Ed obviously from Tomato
* Elliot and Sandra from 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
* Rosko and Georgina (who I don't think have a blog)
* Neil from At My Table
I was the first to arrive at 6:30pm, still half an hour early. I found Charles Greenfield, head chef and owner still busily running around preparing things. We found out later that Charles had lost electricity from 2-6pm that day, so to be able get the meal going was a great feat itself.
I introduced myself and my friend to Charles. I started to ask Charles questions about the restaurant and when it opened and commented how small the place was. Charles didn't seem happy at my questions about his restaurant being reviewed in the paper and he said the writers never listened and just made things up. Also he said his restaurant was actually a kitchen and that I should be careful about saying how small it was. I was worried that I had already put my foot into my mouth before the meal had even started. I needn't have worried. Charles was only joking with me and was very nice to me all night, joking with me and answering my questions.
I'm going to write about the food from how I felt about it. I didn't take any notes and as my friend said, that's the difference between a professional and an amateur like me. You can find a much better discussion of the ingredients in each dish over at Neil's post about it.
When everyone had arrived, Charles introduced himself and what he planned to do for us tonight. Charles has been working with Wagyu for a very long time, almost twenty years I think. He was going to do a Wagyu tasting menu for us and along the way also educate us on Wagyu and food in general. The Wagyu we were going to eat was Sher Wagyu, all grade 9+ cuts. Coincidentally, a friend was just telling me about some Wagyu he bought at Box Hill, which turns out to be Sher Wagyu as that is one of the places they sell.
The meal started off with a palette cleanser of pickled ginger, daikon and marinated mushroom. We then kicked off the wagyu-fest of cuts of scotch fillet. There was some soy dipping sauce that Charles had made himself. The scotch fillet sashimi was beautiful, smooth, flavoursome and with just a hint of soy, delicious fragrant.
The same cut of scotch fillet was then rolled in "California" style rolls with various other things like daikon, mushroom, seaweed, lettuce etc. Again, a tiny touch of soy dabbed on top completed the roll. All the flavours worked so well together, but the wagyu flavour was not lost at all. It was still central to all the flavours.
Next up we tried an eye fillet cut. As you can see from the photo, it looks a lot leaner than the scotch fillet. It had a very different texture and flavour to the scotch fillet. It had a "meatier" flavour more consistent with regular beef I thought. It was still insanely tender and paired with the asparagus for a different flavour combination.
Next up, Charles prepared some seared Wagyu using the scotch fillet and eye fillet, giving us a direct comparison.
The Wagyu was seared in a sandwich press type device at 300 degrees Celcius. This meant we got the nice browing on the outside but was still pink inside. The two cuts tasted different again cooked (yes I know thats stating the obvious). The eye fillet took on a mild duck meat flavour. It just broke apart in my mouth. The scotch fillet had more of the cooked Wagyu flavour that I'm used to, with the fat melting and providing that ultra smooth taste.
I think it was after this course that Charles passed around some simple snow peas with a dipping sauce made from tuna head that had been boiled for 7 and 9 hours respectively. It was such a simple thing to do in terms of pairing ingredients, but it was simplicity at its best. I loved the 7 hour tuna sauce with the crispness of the snow peas.
Next up we had a nice warm soup with wagyu shabu shabu style. The soup had that clean flavour like everything else throughout the night. It was just so comforting with the mushrooms and kelp.
Charles then joked that we would get to taste a world first, a pairing of squid stuffed with wagyu. When he first said it, we all laughed, but then he started to prepare it. The squid had been soaked in vinegar all day. He cleaned the squid and then proceeded to work his skill stuff Californian style rolls with Wagyu into the squid. With the left over flaps of the squid, he made a salad with two types of fish roe, snow peas and some spicy pepper I think.
The squid rolls were beautifully presented on a glass plate with a dipping sauce. The rolls worked really well with the contrasting flavours. Who would have guessed that wagyu can work with squid.
We then tried some Porterhouse cuts. Charles seared these again and presented them on a bed of cucumber slivers with brussel sprouts and marinated radish. The porterhouse cut is my favourite. I loved that fat all throughout the meat and that stronger flavour.
The last dish of the night was cold soba noodles with raw wagyu strips, kelp, mushroom and a broth. It was very refreshing and a perfect lift to end the night.
Some nashi with lime drizzled on it finished off a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It was great to catch up with my fellow Melbournian bloggers again. There were lots of interesting discussions, even toilets got a very hearty discussion. And Hawthorn beat Collingwood Danny :-).
The best part though was meeting Charles and seeing him at work. His passion for Wagyu and cooking clearly shines through. There is nothing pretentious about his food or himself. As my friend said, Charles is a very genuine person. His philosophy on working with the natural flavours of food has really worked in his restaurant/kitchen. After tasting his wagyu menu, I want to go out and buy some and experiment with the meat too. After that dinner, I was thinking you can't really go wrong with Wagyu. How wrong I was to be proved a few nights later, where at Verge, they managed to totally destroy the wagyu by overdoing it (more on that in another post). There is a huge skill in preparing simple food with the right combinations of flavours and clearly Charles has that skill. Thanks to Charles for hosting us and being generous in answering questions and explaining things. Thanks to Ed for organising the event. I look forward to having more dining and learning experiences at Jamon Sushi.
Overall Rating: 17/20, Fanstastic Wagyu tasting menu with its simplicity.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.