Have you ever had a piece of Otoro? It comes from the fattest part of a Tuna fish’s belly. Instead of the normal deep red, Otoro is whitish pink. If you put a small slice in your mouth, just on your tongue, it will slowly fall apart, without chewing, from your body heat. You can’t really tell that you’re eating fish but the texture is unctuous and sensual.
That’s as close I can describe eating a piece of A5 Wagyu. As Singapore’s powers-that-be relaxes its grip on beef imports (due to mad cow disease) and increasing affluence, which means, for better or worse, restaurants are putting Wagyu beef (Japanese or otherwise) to its menus. However, this introduces a big problem…
And that’s Provenance. Anyone who’s read The Billionaire’s Vinegar would know what I’m talking about. Basically if you buy something so expensive, you’re gonna want to know where it came from and if it was genuine. For Japanese Wagyu beef, there’s usually a certificate proudly displayed at the restaurant showing the provenance. For the awesome Kobe beef (for which Kobe Bryant was allegedly named after when his dad saw the word in a Japanese restaurant and thought it a nice name), there’s a 10-digit number ID number accompanying the meat that allows you to verify its authenticity and even view the lineage of the cow.
Any Japanese restaurant that serves Japanese Wagyu beef will proudly and prominently display a certificate of authentication certifying that the restaurant is authorized to sell, prepare and serve Wagyu Beef from that particular region (or even farm). I’ve even seen certificates that specify which parts of the beef. Case in point: upon entering Kuriya Penthouse at the Orchard Central, you will immediately know they are authorized to serve genuine Hida Beef.
There’s no hiding around the “Oh, the certificate is with the supplier” excuse because there are also restaurant certificates given out by the supplier, so restaurants should insist on these certificates from their suppliers. There’s nothing like seeing the nose print of the cow you’re about to eat.
You might say that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth but in this case if I am paying for the horse I not only want to look at the mouth, I want to look at other bits and pieces to verify if the horse is real and not a donkey with a paint job.
This is not some PR Media Preview with free samples and there are professional press kits to help you
cut & paste with your research; when you pay for your meal, you are motivated to eat mindfully. Ruminate, as it were.
So how was Fat Cow at Camden Medical? I mean I must have a point to make after rambling on about provence right?
I must admit that I like the place because it has a very comfortable setting with helpful and friendly staff. The cocktails at the bar are something to explore.
I was there with 10 hungry veteran steak-eaters which must be quite a handful as we are very specific with our wants. Dax, the restaurant manager, did his best to settle us in.
The starters were more hit than miss; the Hamachi in truffle oil was adequately truffle-y, we loved the Zuchinni flowers stuffed with Scallops because it was a nice departure from the usual treatment as well as the Ox Tendon and the Foie Gras with Daikon (a definite crowd-pleaser). We never ordered the most expensive starter: the Sashimi platter but it arrived at our table anyway and it was meh.
The sides were mostly disappointing with the baked potato being the best-tasting of the lot. I really was looking forward to the grilled Shishito peppers, having grilled so many of my own, but the flavors were lacking.
Of course, you’re not reading this to get an overly detailed description of the starters and sides are you? I mean describing caramelized Foie Gras as soft and falling apart is like saying sugar is sweet; it’s equally boring.
Moving on, we ordered the A5 and the A3 Japanese Wagyu, the Aussie Blackmore and Stockyard Ranch to compare the difference, if any, because technically, they’re all the same breed of cow. All ribeyes. Fat Cow offers a variety of cooking options but the most promising (to us) were either Shabu-Shabu or Teppanyaki.
Unfortunately, Shabu-Shabu can be tricky to cook because it’s called Shabu-Shabu and not Shabu -Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu-Shabu; basically if you see no pink on the meat, you’ve over-cooked it. Shabu-Shabu doesn’t quite pair well with wines and seriously, dipping sauces? So Teppanyaki (the only available best option) was it.
Allow me to let you in on a secret: if someone describes Wagyu Beef (from any certified source) as having a strong beefy taste, either he’s lying through his teeth or he’s been served a fake Wagyu. Or he can’t tell shit from Shinola. While there were some slight variations from the different exporters, all grilled Wagyu Beef have a very mild flavor that’s sweet, slightly nutty and is very tender with hardly any chew at all.
We ordered a total of 400g of Wagyu beef for 10 people, it doesn’t seem a lot but you don’t really need that much high-quality beef to be sated. Unfortunately, that meant some people got just the fat. In future, we just have to order more.
Ultimately, we left Fat Cow with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. It took a while for me to gather my thoughts, articulate what that dissatisfaction was and do a little research. The mystique and glamour of Wagyu Beef can be overwhelming but when you’ve paid what can amount to a significant portion of a person’s monthly salary, it is sobering.
Disregarding the sudden appearance of the Sashimi platter that we couldn’t remember ordering, we were unable to tell if the Wagyu Beef that we ate was really Wagyu Beef. There were no displays of certification and the beef wasn’t brought out to us for inspection before cooking. Not that we could tell visually the difference between a A5 and A3 Japanese Wagyu Beef, but it would be a nice gesture.
I’m not accusing Fat Cow of selling less-than-authentic Wagyu Beef but the lack of visible certification does raise questions and doubts. Questions like if “Blackmore” and “Stockyard Farms” are identified on the menu, why the generic “Japanese Wagyu Beef” label for the A3, A4 and A5?
Like I said, I want to know if the horse I’m buying is not merely a donkey with a paint job. Wouldn’t you?
Fat Cow is at 1 Orchard Boulevard, #01-01, Camden Medical Center, Tel: 6735 0308, Opens From: Mon-Sat 6pm to 11pm.
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