Despite nearly four decades of experience with an American carnivore’s diet, I have to admit to a degree of ignorance in the field of beef before I came to work at a The Sanctuary’s Ocean Room – the highest rated steakhouse in America (Forbes Four Star & AAA Four Diamond). In my time working here, though, I have come to better understand the beautiful complexities and nuances of beef. With the popularity of cable television food channels, it seems our culture is embracing the grill more than it ever has.
As one who takes a terrific amount of joy from consuming red meat, I still feel a hint of guilty excitement when presented with a large cut of well-prepared, glorious steak. Something instinctual and primal temporarily suspends other senses when I see plated steaks arriving at the staging area in the kitchen. It’s one of the few products served in restaurants that really needs no other food to enhance it. It is its own sexy, contextual self – a pure pleasure-delivery medium.
It comes in several different forms. Three of the most common cuts you will find at a steak house such as The Ocean Room are the filet, the ribeye, and the strip.
- Filet Mignon – The Ferrari of the steak world. It’s expensive and lean. If you choose your steaks based on texture this is the most silky, velvety cut. When prepared by a talented cook, you can rename it “savory cotton candy.” It is not a weight-bearing muscle so there is much less marbling than other cuts.
- Ribeye – If Elvis were a steak he would undoubtedly be a ribeye. It has more personality per square inch than Barnum Bailey circus under the big top. And by personality I mean fat (marbling), of course. Many expect that to mean navigating a lot of connective tissue and unsightly ribbons of fat. A well-butchered true, certified prime (USDA) cut of ribeye is does not have these qualities. What we really want in a ribeye are the small flecks and molecules of fat. Heat melts these little guys into the fibers glazing them with pure flavor.
- NY Strip – The strip is a ribeye in training. It’s a bit less complicated than the ribeye but the cost is flavor. It has less marbling than the ribeye but is mysteriously more expensive. The strip is a well-manicured cut but you just don’t get the payoff like that of its big brother.
Obviously there are many more cuts and styles, especially if the restaurant butchers in-house as we do at The Ocean Room. Butchering is a lost art from another era. It is a mesmerizing process, trimming away the layers in order to reveal the treasures hidden within. It is a laborious and time-consuming task. However, the results are brilliant. At The Ocean Room, guests can indulge on a wildly unique cut called the Sanctuary Chop. This 38oz, bone-in ribeye offers the most marbled portion of a local, grass-fed/dry-aged steer and is a stunning sight heralding its 2ft bone proudly. There really is nothing quite like it. To find out more about The Ocean Room, check out http://www.kiawahresort.com/dining/ocean-room.php.
Whichever direction you go for beef, I encourage you to listen to your server. Ask questions. Mix it up. Yield to the chef’s talent. Try something you might not have had before. Getting the right cut at a great restaurant will go far to assure a great experience. Yea, beef!