Those who order the highest grades of Wagyu beef available at BLT Steak really know what they're getting. The restaurant not only has a certificate of authenticity that swears the beef is what they're saying it is. That certificate even includes the cow's name.
The certificates are only available right now for the highest grades of Wagyu, including BMS 10 and 11 (occasionally the level 9 will have them too), which BLT Steak only recently started getting access to, explained chef Will Artley. The restaurant doesn't automatically bring them out with an order, but they'll show them to diners upon request, and they keep all of the certificates from past cows on file in the kitchen.
"As we started to get more and more known for the higher end [Wagyu], we had more people saying, 'Can we see the certificate?'" Artley said. Some people are interested because they want to know as much as possible about where the beef they're eating comes from; others are more into the novelty factor of the certificate. "People come in and spend $1,000 on an appetizer and want to show their friends that this is what they're eating," he said.
The cow served at a media event last night, for example, was named Kabocha. His certificate listed everything from the grading and breed to the harvest date and the owner. "You can even find out the name of the cow that gave birth to it," Artley said. The cow's nose print was featured on the certificate, too. Yes, it does in fact sound like a certain Portlandia sketch about the province of a particular chicken.
The reaction from diners has been universally positive, Artley said; no one has become squeamish after learning they're eating a cow named Ichiro. When people order the wagyu, BLT's expert on the product, Jamie Stevens (Artley calls him their "meat sommelier," presents the raw cut of beef to them before it is prepared (Artley likes to make sure he doesn't let the customers get too close to it, though, for fear of an incident like Equinox's $300-bite-of-truffle).
The presentation often draws the attention of other diners in the restaurant, too. "We had a table of two ladies asking, 'Oh, what's he got?" [when someone ordered it] and Jamie [Stevens] came over and started talking to them, explaining the cuts, saying 'This is so rare, you won't see it anywhere else.' He's going on and on and the woman says, 'Oh my god, I'm a vegetarian.' He starts apologizing and apologizing and she tells him, 'Oh, I'm just kidding,'" Artley said, laughing.
The Wagyu is priced at $35 per oz for the 10 and 11-grade levels. Artley has seen V.I.P. customers order up to 30 oz of the product. "Luckily our cooks are so strong that you hand them over $2,000 worth of meat, tell them you want it medium rare, and they just reply, 'Absolutely,'" Artley said.