Earlier this month, The Wayfarer, an upscale American grill in New York City, got its hands on one of the highest quality—and extremely rare—cuts of beef: A5 BMS 11 Kagoshima, better known as Japanese Wagyu. While the time it takes to source and acquire the beef is often long and protracted, the time it will be available at The Wayfarer will be extremely short.
"It's on the menu for a very, very limited time," says Chef Cliff Crooks. "The rarity of it means it's not something you see everyday. It's not even going to be a printed addition to the menu; we're just offering it so everyone can experience it. When it's gone, it's gone."
Chef Crooks says Wagyu differentiates from other cuts of beef through its fat content and marbleization. "It's almost akin to a 1-pound block of butter," he says. "If I took a 1-pound block of butter and took a red Sharpie and drew very faint lines into it, that's essentially what Wagyu, especially truly Japanese A5 beef, looks like.
"The cows themselves have a much better existence up until slaughter than you and I do on a daily basis, in order to achieve this," he adds with a laugh.
The Wayfarer received 30 pounds, or two ribs, of the spear, sourced directly from Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan. Chef Crooks says he knows of no other restaurants serving Wagyu beef at the moment, though Chef Michael Mina is known to offer it at his elaborate NFL tailgates in Santa Clara, California, during football season.
The Wayfarer is serving the Wagyu in two ways. One is a Tataki, which comes with house pickled ginger, shaved scallions, and ponzu, priced $38 per ounce with a 2-ounce minimum order required.
The other method is to sear the Wagyu in a cast-iron pan and warm it to guests' desired temperature. The Wayfarer serves the seared meat with Wagyu fat croutons, charred green onion, pickled grapes, micro shish, and cilantro salad. Again, this method is priced at $38 per ounce, although a 5-ounce minimum order is required, coming to a minimum $190 order.
Asked how many meals one spear produces, Chef Crooks says, "a lot, a lot, a lot. The ribs are about 15 pounds apiece, so it's a lot of beef—and it isn't a lot of beef at the same time." He split the meat among The Wayfarer, BLT Steak, and BLT Prime, thus offering guests more locations to find the Wagyu but also limiting its run time.
A certificate of authenticity is on-hand at The Wayfarer to delineate the cow’s breed, grade, owner, harvest, production area, and even an inked nose print—similar to a human’s fingerprint.
The response, Chef Crooks says, has been unbelievable. "It's amazing just how special that true Japanese Wagyu is, period. To get something that rare and offer it on a platform by the ounce that everyone can get, for us that is very special."
By Sonya Chudgar