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Amazing Grade A5 Japanese Wagyu Beef! The Steak House [Review] w/ Pics!

(Formatted with All Pictures here:
http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2008/05...

)

One of the biggest regrets from my trip to Japan last month was being unable to fit in a visit to a Japanese Steakhouse serving Grade A5 Wagyu Beef. In Japan, their system for grading meat is far more extensive and detailed compared to the USDA system. The Japanese Grading System looks at four major categories: Marbling; Color & Brightness of Meat; Firmness & Texture of Meat; and Color, Luster & Quality of Fat. The cut of Beef is given ratings in each of those individual categories, and then an overall final grade is assigned, with 15(!) levels, ranging from the lowest (C1), up to the maximum grade (A5). Suffice to say that the maximum grade A5 Wagyu Beef in Japan is very expensive. (On a side note, informal discussions by chefs and vendors about how USDA Prime (the highest grade given out in the U.S. system) would rate in Japan put the U.S. cuts in the range of "A1 - A2".)

I had given up on trying grade A5 Wagyu Beef until my next trip to Japan. That is until I discovered "The Steak House": A tiny Japanese restaurant on the border of Rolling Hills and Torrance that proudly proclaims the goal of bringing true Wagyu Beef to Los Angeles, with the focus on maximum grade A5 True Wagyu Beef! Excited by the prospect of being able to taste this without having to wait for my next trip to Japan, I grabbed two fellow Hounds and off we went.

From the moment we arrived at The Steak House's parking lot, suspicions began to creep up: The Steak House is located inside a strip mall, housed near a Ralphs supermarket and a generic pizza place. "Could this really be legit?" is what we all thought. Then, again, upon hindsight the first impressions of other good Japanese L.A. restaurants started the same way: From Sasabune's original location (in a *house* in a residential section off of Sawtelle), to Sushi Zo's location, to Nozawa's, to Mori's location, and new places like Yakitori Bincho, their locations and surroundings belied the greatness within. Hopefully this would be the case here.

Stepping inside, the first thing that struck me was the sheer *relaxed* nature of The Steak House: The interior was darkly lit, quiet and relaxed. The ambiance and decoration felt more like a down-to-earth cafe than any "big American Steakhouse" that I was somehow expecting.

The Steak House offers a simple selection of steaks, from USDA Choice-grade Ribeye ($16 for a 6 Oz), New York and Filet Mignon, to Montana Range (Hormone-free, Antibiotics-free) USDA Prime-grade New York and Filet Mignon, to finally the reason to visit, their maximum Grade A5 Authentic Wagyu Beef flown in from Japan, offered in a 5 Oz Wagyu New York Steak for $58, or a 4 Oz Wagyu Filet Mignon for $59. (They also serve a Grilled Free-Range Chicken dish; Alaskan Salmon in a Yuzu sauce; and Roasted Maine Lobster with Kurobuta Sausage.)

They also had a Tasting Menu that evening that included the A5 Wagyu Filet Mignon which is what I opted for. Chef Kazuaki Iwamoto sources all his Grade A5 Wagyu Beef from only one farm - Shibujishi - in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

In addition to the Tasting Menu, we started with one dish from their Specials menu: Wagyu Beef Carpaccio.

Chef Iwamoto presents thinly sliced Grade A5 Kagoshima Wagyu Beef over a bed of marinated White Onions, topped with an exquisite house-made Tosazu Vinaigrette and fresh Red and Black Peppercorns and Chives. I gently placed a slice of the A5 Kagoshima Wagyu in my mouth and took a bite: A wonderful melding of COMPLETE tenderness from the A5 Wagyu Beef (with *no* gristle / tendon or "chewiness" at all!), with a fragrant olive oil and slight tartness in the Tosazu Vinaigrette. This was so delicious!

Next up was the first course in our Tasting Menu, described as "Bamboo Shoots with Salmon Marine." What came as a delightful surprise (and some hilarity) was that they forgot to translate / mention the most important part of the 1st Appetizer: It comes with 2 pieces of Grade A5 Wagyu Beef Sushi (which was definitely the highlight)! (^_^)

The Bamboo Shoots with Salmon Marine turned out to be a fancy, high-end "coleslaw"-type salad, with chunks of very tender, fresh Bamboo Shoots, combined with chunks of Salmon Sashimi, Avocado, in a Mayonnaise-based dressing. I felt the Salmon stood out too much from the neutrality of the Bamboo and creaminess of the Avocado and Mayo. It was interesting, but nothing I'd order again.

However, the 2 pieces of A5 Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Sushi were amazing! Chef Iwamoto presents the Wagyu Beef lightly cooked: He does a quick once-over with a blowtorch and tops it off with a drizzle of a Balsamic Vinaigrette reduction. While the previous A5 Beef Carpaccio was delicious, the simplicity of trying the A5 Wagyu Beef over some excellent Koshihikari Rice and a little touch of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction brought out another side to the Wagyu Beef that I appreciated even more. Like before, the A5 Beef was out-of-this-world: Perfectly tender, with *no* gristle or chewiness at all. It was truly unreal and I had flashbacks of Urasawa.

Next up was their Fresh Scallop with Shrimp, White Cream Sauce. The single Scallop was good (nothing amazing), and the two medium-sized Shrimp paired very nicely with the White Sauce, which I felt was more like a Lobster Bisque. The Sauce was delightfully rich and creamy and was like an alternate Seafood Bisque in a way.

Next came their French Onion Soup: This was probably the weakest dish of the night. A simple bowl of French Onion Soup that had a good broth and flavor, but was nothing special. In addition, the preparation and amount of bread / cheese was pretty minimal.

Finally, it was time for the highlight and reason for coming to The Steak House: The A5 Wagyu Filet Mignon.

The presentation was a bit underwhelming, looking like something from a Hong Kong Cafe in the San Gabriel Valley instead of plating worthy of the highest grade of Japanese Wagyu Beef. But what was most important was the food, right? :) So I took a fork and knife and prepared to cut off a slice... only the Filet Mignon was basically fork-tender! It was SO SOFT that it was surreal and my knife hand was barely touching the beef as it was being sliced.

After one bite it was apparent: This was easily THE most tender, melt-in-your-mouth piece of Steak I had ever had! The beef at Urasawa was just as tender (if not more so), but this was from a huge slab of seared meat, off of a Filet Mignon Steak, which was really impressive. It was wonderfully rich, lightly sweet, and truly just perfection in each bite. There was no "chewiness" or tough parts of the meat. It was really like eating Toro (Fatty Tuna Belly).

The Steak House also offers a house-made special Steak Sauce, Asian-influenced, with Soy Sauce, Garlic, Onions and a few other spices added in. The Filet Mignon was fine as is, without the sauce, but a small application of it added a nice angle to the dish as well.

Finally came the Dessert: There was a choice of three types - a Chocolate Tart, Cheesecake, or Sorbet. We tried one of each (since there were three of us that evening :) -

The Chocolate Tart was presented in a giant plate with lots of fresh fruit (nice), a scoop of Lemon Sorbet, and a house-made Panna Cotta. I'm not a chocolate fan but it was competently done. Nothing amazing. The Panna Cotta, however, was delicious and had the texture of a really nice Flan.

The Sorbet dessert was presented with two types of Sorbet (Apricot and Lemon), and a variety of fresh fruit. The Sorbets were excellent as well.

Finally the Cheesecake was also nicely done, and presented like the Chocolate Tart (with fresh fruit and the Panna Cotta):

Service throughout the evening was *very casual*, not necessarily a good or bad thing, but a little off-putting considering the amazing quality of the Beef. The overall cost turned out to be $110 per person (including Wine, Tax & Tip). The Tasting Menu itself is only $79 per person, which is a great deal. I know some people may think "4 Oz Steak?!" and worry that it's not enough, but this Grade A5 Wagyu Beef is so rich and has so much marbling (in a good way) that with all the other items, you're more than stuffed by the end (I couldn't even finish my dessert).

Overall, you go to The Steak House for one thing, and one thing only: The Grade A5 True Wagyu Beef from Kagoshima, Japan. It should be noted that the overall Ambiance, Plating, and level of Service is not up to par with a world-class "traditional Steakhouse," but the A5 Wagyu alone is worth the visit. Also note that by "Service," I don't mean that it was bad service, but that it was all very casual and relaxed: The Steak House is a small restaurant, and their limited wine menu, basic decor, and friendly, but casual servers all reflect something more akin to a nice family restaurant rather than a restaurant serving the highest grade of Beef in Japan.

I don't need to be pampered (I love going on an Al Pastor Taco run with my friends :), but there is a disconnect in expectations and something that people should take note of, if they have certain expectations going to a "steakhouse." Chef Iwamoto presents excellent dishes that are centered on the A5 Wagyu Beef, but still needs to bring up the rest of the aspects to really bring The Steak House into a higher level of a great dining experience. But conferring with my 2 Hounds that evening (one that has been to all the major steakhouses except CUT and Wolfgang's), they both agreed that given the choice of going to the standards like Morton's, Ruth's Chris, Flemings or The Palm, etc., they would skip all the fuss and would rather come back to The Steak House for the tenderest steak they've ever had. I would tend to agree, unless there was a special occasion or celebration (in which case a more standard American steakhouse would be far more appropriate), but personally, I would love to see Chef Iwamoto improve upon his Plating, other dishes, and overall Ambiance of this restaurant; there's just a minimal expectation that should accompany food this good.

Note: I contacted Urasawa and discovered that he had served me Grade A5 Hokkaido-Gyu (Japanese Beef from Hokkaido) that night I went, and that he sources only A5 when available. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, and it's nice to know. :)

Ultimately, if you're in the mood for amazing, top-quality Japanese Wagyu and want to try out this Grade A5 Beef, for a fair price and without any fuss or glamor (and with no wait), The Steak House is definitely worth a visit.

*** Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0) ***
(Rating just for the Grade A5 Beef dishes: 9.3 (out of 10.0))

The Steak House
2933 Rolling Hills Rd.
Torrance, CA 90503
Tel: 310-891-2333

ww.steakhousekobe.com

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The Steak House
2933 Rolling Hills Rd, Torrance, CA 90505

 
 
 
 
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  1. A few more pics. The rest of the pictures can be found in the link in the original post. Thanks!

     
     
     
    5 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss

      Ooo.. Thanks for posting Exilekiss.... I've been wanting to check this place out. This Steak House is part of the I-Naba group. I-Naba is a nice tiny japanese restaurant on Hawthorne and Torrance that specializes in Soba..
      http://www.restaurantinaba.com/

      1. re: Perceptor

        Thanks Perceptor.

        How's I-Naba for Soba, by the way? Nice quality noodles? :)

        1. re: exilekiss

          hmm I-Naba was a goood find for soba until i found Otafuku... Otafuku in my opinion is better in their soba making skills.. I-Naba does beat Otafuku in decor.. it is alittle nicer inside I-Naba.. you can tell it is more for wealthier japanese clients...

          just thought you would appreciate this... this is my real deal highest grade Kobe beef experience in Osaka, Japan http://www.chowhound.com/topics/422736

          1. re: Perceptor

            Hi Perceptor,

            Very nice! (^_^) Thanks for the photo album; that looks so delicious! Do you have an addy for the Osaka restaurant? Doumo!

            1. re: exilekiss

              Steak Ron

              Sonezaki Shinchi 1-10-2. Open 11:30am-2, 5-9:30pm. Closed Sundays. Tel: 06-6344-6664
              Osaka, Japan

    2. Great review.

      I'm curious, from looking at your pics of the Wagyu filet mignon, there doesn't appear to be very much marbling??

      4 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        that was my initial thought as well. however, great review nonetheless!

        1. re: wilafur

          Almost looks like ... london broil.

          Most likely just the lighting.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          Hi ipsedixit,

          Thanks. Hehe, I know, but trust me, the Filet Mignon was SO melt-in-your-mouth tender! (^_~)

          Part of it is the lighting as well (it's a really darkly lit restaurant), and the fat from the Wagyu Beef melts relatively quickly. (But even my last piece of the Wagyu was still just as tender, go figure. :)

          You can see more of the Marbling in the earlier Carpaccio pics (where the same A5 Wagyu is uncooked).

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Good question - and this won't help. In an earlier post on this thread I referred to Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. On entering this restaurant you are greeted by a glass-walled case of very well marbled steaks and the ends of slabs. Sorry, I'm no butcher as you can tell. As you continue walking you then see the ends of white slabs with red marbling. I've always assumed these were the A5 Wagyu's. Once the steaks are cooked and tableside, however, you cannot see the difference.

            The first time I had "Kobe" steak was a couple of years ago in a teppan yaki restaurant in SF. No, not a Benihana - shame on you for thinking that. We had ordered both USDA prime and Kobe in order to see the difference. The difference in color was dramatic - the USDA prime was a nice red while the Kobe was almost purple.

            So, next time I go to Alexander's I'll ask, take some pix and post them.

            1. Blows my mind that such a great find is located in Torrance. I need to be less of a food snob and venture outside my comfort zone of West Hollywood and Hollywood.

              1. I went there a while ago and liked the starters a lot, but the main courses rather less. The Wagyu ribeye was the tenderest piece of beef I can remember having, but unctuous and flavorless - I have tried Wagyu before, including in Japan, but this was the least flavorful steak I've had. It was an interesting experience, but I'll take Fleming's over this any time. Fleming's certainly has a better wine list - there were only about ten wines available at the Steakhouse, and they weren't knockovers.

                1 Reply
                1. re: FoodObsessive

                  I'm really interested in going to this place, but should I save my money? I read another scathing review including a FROZEN kobe carpaccio. Is this wagyu going to be as delicious as the seared slice I had at Urasawa albiet it was only one tiny little piece? We need more reviews on this place..

                2. Great review! I was wondering do they serve "gohan" with the steak. Cuz there's nothing like great steak with rice :)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Mr. Gohan

                    Yeaaaaaah buddy! Otherwise I'd be reaching for that phantom chawan...

                    1. re: Mr. Gohan

                      Hi Mr. Gohan,

                      Thanks. :) I would imagine you could get rice (I didn't see it as a "side dish" or anything). But the high-quality rice they used with the Wagyu Sushi means they have cooked rice in the kitchen (^_~). They were very accommodating, so I'd imagine if you tell them you want some Gohan, they would kindly oblige. :)

                    2. Great informative review as always... This place sounds like it's right up my alley... would it qualify on that current post about wearing shorts?

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/521829

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Hi bulavinaka,

                        Thanks. (^_^) Ooh, that's a good point. While everyone in the restaurant was in at least some sort of pants, or skirt / dress. It was informal: khakis or jeans, basic 1-piece, etc. But it's low-key enough that I think it'd be OK w/ Shorts (as long as it wasn't too casual, like walking in flip-flops and tank top :)? Report back if you end up going. Hope you like the A5 Wagyu! :)

                      2. Wow! Thank you for the review. Next time I'm in LA I'll definitely give it a try. My experiences,all very enjoyable, with A5 Wagyu are limited to Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino:

                        http://www.alexanderssteakhouse.com/

                        Without getting carried away here, I'd just like to add that I think the portion sizes of the A5 offerings here on The Steak House menu are perfect, given the richness of the A5 Wagyu, and I think the prices are extremely reasonable - great find.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: samse

                          Hey samse,

                          You're welcome. (^_^) Thanks for the heads up on the Cupertino restaurant. Hope you enjoy The Steak House next time you visit. :)

                        2. so i just ate here last night. maybe i'll post a review when i'm not feeling so lazy. but suffice it to say that it was quite a memorable two pieces of meat - the NY and the filet mignon, and now there's probably a sigalert in my arteries. are you trying to kill me? gee, thanks exile! ;)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: rameniac

                            Glad you liked it rameniac! (^_^)/

                            It's also good to know that this place is consistent in its delivery so far. :)

                            1. re: rameniac

                              rameniac: Mother's day dinner....while you and I were at Bincho, my in-laws were here. They've been raving about this place, now I know why!

                              1. re: rameniac

                                LOL. Yeah looking at the photos I wonder what a cardiologist would say....

                                I love my steak (esp. ribeye) myself though. I figure, once in a while shouldn't be too bad for me ...

                              2. After reading your review, I took my brother last night for his birthday. We both...REALLY enjoyed it. haha thanks for sharing! I don't think I ever would've gone there (or known about it) if I hadn't read this.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jennp

                                  Hey jennp,

                                  You're welcome. (^_^) I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's definitely a hidden gem in many ways, unfussy and the A5 Wagyu Beef is SO good... it's spoiled me (along w/ Urasawa) for regular steak nowadays...

                                2. Another reason why the South Bay is a treasure trove of Japanese delights.. God, I love Torrance. =P Annyways..

                                  I was looking on their website but couldn't find a tasting menu. Do they have a tasting menu every night or were you there on a special night?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: mstinawu

                                    Hi mstinawu,

                                    Their Tasting Menu was dated specifically for that night. I'm guessing they have some kind of tasting menu every night, but you can call ahead to find out what Special / Prix Fixe / Tasting Menu they have that night.

                                    Hope you enjoy it. :)

                                    1. re: mstinawu

                                      Hm. I'm assuming that they have it every night. I'm guessing that they don't have it on the website because the specific items on the tasting menu changes, depending on what's good that day? The dishes that came out were mostly the same as exilekiss' review, except instead of the "Bamboo Shoots with Salmon Marine" we got a "Red Snapper carpaccio", which was amazing :)

                                    2. I agree with all the above reviewers. We went last night, interestingly the place was pretty empty so the service was phenomenal as well as the meal. They started off the tasting menu with a carpaccio consisted of 2 different cuts of tuna/white fish, the next entree was grilled scallops and shirmp in a cream sauce, french onion soup, and finally the wagyu. our part of 4 ordered 2 filet and 2 NY steak - i must admit the filet came out much better - the NY steak was extremely marbled (which is what people want) but you did have to pace yourself between the bites otherwise it was some pretty powerful stuff. Dessert for us was choice of chocolate tort or regular cheese cake, all of them came with either ice cream or sorbet with plenty of fruits surrounding the plate.

                                      the meal was great, service was attentive, and the quality of the food excellent. given that the main showcase was the wagyu - i'd recommend the filet for those who want a leaner cut that is soft and tender, the NY cut would be for those wanting the true kobe experience with some serious marbling. this is a "gem".

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: RSfoodie

                                        Hi RSfoodie,

                                        Thanks for the report back. :) Glad to hear you enjoyed the Grade A5 Wagyu Filet; it's buttery without being overpowering. I've heard similar things about the NY Steak so it's good to know (and get another confirmation) that it's much fattier (and a cut I won't be ordering on my next visit. (^_~))

                                      2. sorry may have missed it, how much was your tasting menu?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: justeat

                                          Hi justeat,

                                          The Tasting Menu was $79 per person.

                                          1. re: exilekiss

                                            wow that's a great deal!!! I love beef, definitely will be heading out there.