I’ve eaten a lot of beef over my time but my favourite cut has remained pretty steady: a bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine) over a wood fire in the heart of Tuscany. Quite frankly it is pretty hard to beat.
I’ve never really got the obsession with super premium fillets/ filet mignon or wagyu beefs. Even in Japan. They are just too easy and it can be like chewing on yogurt. And then I came to Korea and experienced marbling and flavour the way it was meant to be; 한우 beef style. 한우 is written as han-u, hanwoo or hanu.
Han-u beef is the Korean wagyu but better. Koreans get pretty patriotic about it and unlike their patriotism for Samsung or the chaebols this is entirely correctly placed. I mean you can even read a scientific digest by Messrs Hur, Park and Joo entitled “A comparison of the meat qualities from the Hanwoo (Korean Native Cattle) and Holstein Steer” (here).
It comes in various grades such as B, A, A+, A++ and A+++. And apparently even with A+++ if you know the restaurant owner you can get the better +++. But all those pluses come at a pretty severe cost. If you ever come to Korea on business or have someone here who likes you they will probably take you to Samwon Garden in Gangnam so as to impress you with han-u beef. You should be glad they are paying.
As to whether Samwon Garden is a place you should be excited to eat han-u beef, I think their own blurb on the restaurant website tells you all you need to know: “Samwon Garden is the largest first-class restaurant in Korea which can host about 1,200 guests simultaneously. We have hosted local and foreign dignitaries; prime ministers, VIPs from international conferences like the IPU, IBRD, and IMF, The Berlin Philharmony Orchestra, Miss Young International contestants, and etc“.
You don’t want to go there. It has good meat but is expensive and the character of factory. Instead you want to go to a small neighbourhood place where the owner is very good friends with the butcher and will phone you when he gets a special cut in.
The pictures of the steak on this post are all from that kind of restaurant. The kind of restaurant where we organised a special late night beef party when the owner told us he had the good stuff in. Where he brings out cuts and samples and slices which I don’t recognise and even offers to bribe the waitress result in nothing. This is because its all a bit secret. A bit nod, nod, wink, wink. From the location of the restaurant to exactly what bit of the cow you are eating.
So unfortunately I can’t tell you the name or the location of this fantabulous beef restaurant as it is not mine to bestow. That honour goes to my friend who runs a fairly successful K-Mexican restaurant I much love (Vatos) with the direct line to the owner. I am still searching for the special TomEatsJenCooks one and trying to learn enough Korean to get the best cuts as just saying “han-u chuseyo” doesn’t cut it.
- Address – secret
- Price – KRW 50,000 a head and up