While it’s probably safe to assume that much of the dining community isn’t aware of January’s month-long status as a culinary holiday, the regulars at Roka Akor's Chicago location were already charting the possibilities in December.
Understandably, “National Meat Month” is a celebration of indulgence, a time to elevate the traditional and time-tested treat of ordering a meat-centric dish at a restaurant. It’s one of the reasons iconic steakhouses can span generations and outlast the ebb and flow of community, economic, and sociological change—there’s simply something anchored and comforting about choosing beef on a night out.
Ce Bian, the corporate chef of the Windy City location, which also has units in in Skokie, Illinois, San Francisco, and Scottsdale, Arizona, has rolled out specials in the past at his restaurant, which serves Robata Japanese cuisine prepared on a 12-foot robata grill that uses mesquite charcoal and almond wood, with flames that can push the heat to 1,900 degrees.
The past promotions raised the bar for 2016. “If we are going to celebrate a national food holiday like meat month, we want to make sure we do it right by putting our best meat and product forward. Therefore, we challenged ourselves to ensure each guests get the highest quality meat all month long,” he says.
Bian picked exclusive cuts of Omaha Prime Beef and Japanese Miyazaki Wagyu, with ratings no less than A5-10 (A5-12 is the highest grade of Wagyu), to feature all month. And on January 28, the extravagant finish will take place with a “Big Steak, Big Wine” dinner hosted alongside Brad Butcher, of California-based Jordan Winery.
“I choose to get my prime beef from Greater Omaha Steak because the consistency is the best,” Bian explains. “We always use their prime cut as it has great flavor and texture. Since we work so closely with them year round, we are able to get some high quality bone-in and dry aged steaks from them as well. Miyazaki is the city in Japan where we source our Wagyu from, and in my personal opinion, it is the premiere source for Wagyu products. Due to pre-existing relationships I have with the team that works there, Roka Akor is able to get the first pick from their Wagyu selection, so we get the highest grade they have available every time we source from them.”
The dinner is $125 per person and doesn’t let up. “Essentially guests should be prepared to experience a really indulgent meal with meat-centric dishes and some of the highest quality Wagyu/prime beef they’ve ever eaten,” he says. “We are expecting a great night with one of the icons of Cabernet Sauvignon made at Jordan Winery. I have always felt that Jordan's wines are perfect for food pairings as they are very old world in style. Brad is an experienced wine professional that is also a lot fun and we are looking forward seeing everyone at the restaurant.”
The meal begins with Kusshi Oysters with shiso and lime, and Ama Ebi Sashimi with quail egg and ponzu, along with Champagne. Grilled Scallop with truffle soy butter and shaved truffles, and Wagyu Beef Gunkan with seaweed tapenade follows (a 2013 vintage Jordan Chardonnay complements). The third course is a Braised Wagyu Short Ribs with parsnip purée and crispy sunchokes, accompanied by a 2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Meat returns (of course) in the fourth dish—Dry Aged Australian Lamb Cutlet with Aka Miso Glaze and pickle cucumber salad with the 2008 vintage of the Cab. The final course before dessert is a 28-Day Dry Aged Tomahawk Ribeye with grilled wild mushrooms and the 2003 cab. Sorbet closes out the meal.