When I heard that B&B Butchers was going to be rolling out a new wagyu katsu sando, I literally could not wait. I’d heard about it for years. This mythical sandwich made of marbled, melt-in-your-mouth A5 wagyu. The one that has inspired millions of Instagram likes and foodie pilgrimages. The one that die-hard foodies (myself included) salivated over, dreaming of the day when we could finally taste the real thing. I’d seen pictures of it, fawned over videos of it, and read about how it had finally made it to cities like Los Angeles and New York. And now, it would finally be available in Houston.
Though it may seem like a simple sandwich to make, getting it to where it needed to be took more than a month’s worth of research and development. B&B Butchers owner Benjamin Berg tasted it for the first time at Don Wagyu in New York’s financial district in early June. He’d heard about it before, of course, thanks to Wagyumafia —Tokyo’s members-only beef club, which achieved worldwide fame for its version of the wagyu katsu sando. Don Wagyu charged $180 for its sandwich, and though Berg knew that that price point was too high for the Houston market, he was committed to bringing it home all the same.
Berg already had the Wagyu—his steakhouse is famed for offering several types of Wagyu, as well as being the first Houston restaurant to sell genuine, certified-from-Japan Kobe beef—so that wasn’t an issue. For this sandwich, he’s using A5 Japanese Wagyu ribeye from Miyazaki, which he also sells as a 12-ounce dry-aged ribeye steak. But he needed to find the right bread. Berg and his executive chef, Tommy Elbashary, tried several types before finding the one they wanted at Seiwa Market, a Japanese milk bread that has just the right firmness, density, and flavor.
And then there was the sauce. Would they make their own tonkatsu sauce or just buy it? (Fun fact: All the Japanese restaurants in town that Berg visited use store-bought tonkatsu sauce.) Elshabary bought a bottle and set out to make his own from scratch.
The final product, which rings in at $120, is a bargain for what you get. Berg estimates that his cost for just the Wagyu alone is about $75 (the ribeye is about six to eight ounces)—super high considering that the industry average for food cost rings in at no more than 20 to 30 percent—but he wanted to be able to offer it, and if he was going to do it, he wasn’t going to cut corners.
When it arrives, the wagyu katsu sando is wheeled out ceremoniously on B&B’s white tablecloth-covered gueridon. The sandwich is cut into three sections and placed side-by-side on a small (estimated 6-inch-by-6-inch) white square porcelain plate. The bread is toasted with the crust cut off, and the sandwich comes with a side of fried zucchini noodles.
I have to say that I didn’t even notice the zucchini noodles at first. I was marveling at the thickness and the marbling of the Wagyu itself. I could see the white striations of fat clearly in the meat, which was still quite rare in the middle.
One bite of the sandwich, which was actually thicker than I thought it would be, was so rich and flavorful that I practically swooned on the spot, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was cooked perfectly. Elbashary says that he rolls the Wagyu in a panko crust, then throws it in the deep fryer for less than a minute to achieve that crispy-on-the-outside, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and he nails it.
To pair with the sandwich, Lexy Davis Johnson, the restaurant’s sommelier, recommended a Laurent-Perrier “La Cuvee” Brut Champagne (available by the half-bottle), which she said would help cut through the meat’s unctuousness without competing with the flavors, and it did just that.
Even so, halfway through the second slice of sandwich, it became clear that as much as I was enjoying it, there really is only so much richness I could handle in one sitting. So, instead of forcing myself to finish the rest, I ended up taking the third section of the sandwich to-go.
Did the sandwich live up to the hype? Yes. Was it worth every penny? Again, yes. Would I do it all over again? Unreservedly yes — in a heartbeat. The only difference being that I would probably be less greedy and order it to share with another person. Like all the other foods that I love that are this rich (uni and bone marrow come to mind), you appreciate it all the more when you have just enough to leave you wanting.
B&B Butcher’s wagyu katsu sando is now available in limited quantity as an off-menu special through the end of August, after which it will become a permanent menu item. Sellout risk is high, so reservations are recommended.