I first heard about wagyu on Worth It's steak dinner episode. In recent years, wagyu steak has enjoyed an incredible rise in notoriety, and following its newfound western popularity, a handful of distributors popped up in the United States. I purchased a 16oz A5-grade New York strip steak from Crowd Cow, shipped to my door for the bargain price of $160. Depending on what you like in a steak, it does live up to the hype. At the very least, it's a drastically different experience to anything you could find at even a craft butcher shop in your hometown.
It's barely an exaggeration to say that The Steak has a little bit of meat marbled in with its fat, rather than the other way around. A5 wagyu only comes from a particular breed of Japanese cow. No other cows produce the same kind of intra-muscular marbling required to achieve the coveted A5 grade.
The Steak arrived in a large box packed with styrofoam and dry ice. I once attempted to send a 6-pack of frozen Frontier breakfast burritos to a friend in Seattle (a story for another time) and that cost me about $50. I have to imagine 30%-40% of the cost is for shipping, then, and if you somehow found something like this at a butcher shop (unlikely), you might be able snag it for around half what I paid.
Two of my friends and I convened last Saturday to eat The Steak. A wagyu steak is far too rich to eat enough for a meal, and it's more of a dessert steak anyway, so we started off with sautéed Brussels sprouts and a grass-fed New York strip from Sprouts. After a short intermission, we got to searing The Steak according to Crowd Cow's instructions.
We cooked three sets of three strips of beef, cooked blue, rare, and medium-rare. I ordinarily would cook my steak medium-rare, but the fat in wagyu has such a low melting point, the meat is tender even when the center is just warm. As soon as the steak hits the pan, the fat begins to render and pool around the meat. It makes bacon look lean in comparison.
I and one of my friends had eaten wagyu on one other occasion, so we knew what to expect, but the second friend had not. If you get the chance to try this, try it with friends. Half of the fun is watching the expressions on your friends' faces turn from confusion to shock to bliss to pleasure as they take their first bite.
It's kind of sweet and nutty compared to other steaks. The fat is so prolific and succulent--leagues beyond the dry-aged prime ribeye from your local butcher. It's incredibly rich and delectable in small quantities, but you will start to fatigue very quickly. If you serve yourself 4 ounces, you'll probably finish still on a beef high, thinking it was one of the best things you've ever eaten, which is the perfect place to stop.
Let's be frank: a $160 steak falls squarely into the category of "entirely unnecessary", but I think nice food is one of the best unnecessary things you can buy, especially if you make it an experience to share with friends. Grab one of these if you have the chance. Make it an event, and enjoy your steak innocence while it lasts.