Butter Me Up

Savoring Wagyu, in Many Glorious Forms, at Roka Akor

It's hard to go back to tried-and-true beef after an evening with this candy.

By Cory Garcia August 20, 2018

This is wagyu at its most essential, presented as nigiri at Roka Akor.

No cook wants to waste food, but you have to think that those working in restaurants like Roka Akor feel an extra level of pressure when working with their meat. When it comes to the certified Japanese Kobe wagyu beef, we’re talking about $65 an ounce. Yes, an ounce of this very special brand of beef costs more per ounce than an entire steak at other restaurants, and you have to order a minimum of three ounces to get it to the table. 

I understand the natural cynicism that might come with reading about that price tag. We’re talking about $65-an-ounce cow meat, right? But if you're bold enough—and you’ve got the cash to be that bold—sitting down for a bit of wagyu at Roka Akor is one of the best dining decisions you can make in Houston.  

Maybe the best way you can experience it is to start off with it in a couple of uncooked forms. Sliced thin and served on rice, you get wagyu at its most essential. Even in that cool state, it’s likely to be one of the best bites of meat you’ve ever had. No description really prepares you for the melty, butter flavor that comes from this specially grown, intensely graded steak. Even when you know just how wagyu is grown and produced, it’s still hard to believe that this depth of flavor comes from nature. It will make you reevaluate everything you know about meat. 

Wagyu is more versatile than you might guess. Having tried a wagyu tartare and a miso soup that included wagyu, I was impressed by how well it worked with the simplest dressing up and how it can function as an interesting supporting player in larger dish. Even when the spotlight is not completely on the beef, it shines.

An elegant, if somewhat dramatic plating of wagyu tartare.

But the wagyu at Roka Akor is at its best when it’s cooked on their robata grill. The team has to work hard to make sure that the meat doesn’t get overcooked, and the results are sublime. Again sliced thin, each of the slivers of cooked goodness thrill, with the end pieces in particular being a certain kind of special that stands up to the best Texas steak you’ve had. When cooked, the meat and the fat come together for bites that are succulent and luxurious. Dip them in the provided smoked salt for an experience that tastes like meat heaven on Earth.

The wagyu experience at Roka Akor is more than just indulging in some truly amazing meat. I learned so much over the course of my meal from my expert waiter, from how the meat is raised and graded to the process of getting it from Japan to Houston. It was easily one of the most informative meals I’ve experienced. 

More importantly, I walked away from the experience full but not stuffed. So often American steakhouses seek to overwhelm you with their portions and the number of add-ons. Even when it’s not the case, there’s always a lingering feeling that these steakhouses are trying to hide something about the quality of their meat, hoping to please you by giving you the perception that you got a good value for your money.

But if you gave me the option to choose between three ounces of Kobe beef and a steak dinner overflowing from the plate, I would lean toward the Japanese beef. It’s luxury at its most pure. After my first bite, I leaned over to one of my dining companions and said, “This meat is so good that it’s infuriating.” In that moment I knew I had tasted something special, and that it would have me judging all my future steaks against that one perfect bite. 

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