Saturday March 26th, 2011
The Wagyu Dinner
Beef Nuta (Ribeye Cap)
Filet cured in the style of Bresaola, charred eggplant, and cucumber
“Curry Oxtail” terrine, carrot flowers, spicy vinegar
Picanha (Sirloin Cap Steak), blistered tomato, salsa criolla
Consomme, turnip, onion, paccheri
Rib steak, potatoes cooked in beef fat, breakfast radish, braised lettuce, bordelaise
Cheddar, backyard mulberries, pea tendrils (the mulberry bush), shortbread soil
The bar for meal of the year was set very high this past Saturday night by Chef Jeffrey Brana and his Wagyu themed dinner (although I suspect Chef Mickey will put up a fight...) Big thanks to Ryan @ Miami's Restaurant Power Rankings for the 411 on the great food Chef Brana is serving at his "underground" dinners.
For those unfamiliar with Chef Brana, he was recognized as a "rising star chef" by Star Chefs in 2004. In 2005 he was executive chef at Norman Van Aken’s original Norman's when they received a James Beard nomination for best restaurant in America. In 2006 he opened the short lived Restaurant Brana (closed for personal/family reasons) with his wife Anna who was marketing manager at Norman's for several years.
The Brana dinners are usually held on Saturday's at an initially undisclosed location in the Coral Gables/South Miami area. Seating is limited to eight to ten people. Dinners costs $85 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Cancer Connections a non-profit the Brana's recently founded that focuses on the overall well being of cancer patients. An additional $15 donation is suggested but not required. This is a cause near and dear to the Brana's as evidenced by a quote of Anna's on their website “This project is a promise. A promise I made to my sister Gaby, who succumbed to cancer at a young age”.
ChowP a/k/a The Chowprincess and I were very excited to attend the Wagyu dinner despite not knowing anyone attending besides Ryan. We were fortunate to be surrounded by a fun group of food lovers who shared great conversation although it did degenerate at one point to a funny Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian discussion.(and surprisingly it wasn't ChowP's doing)
Okay, enough of my banter, on to the main event, the food.
For my vegetarian followers, all two of you, Kobe beef is made from Wagyu cows specially bred and raised in the Kobe region of Japan. "Wagyu beef" refers only to the breed of cow.
Our dinner featured beef from the side of a single Wagyu sourced from a family farm in central Florida. The Wagyu was a purebred from traceable breed stock and 100% grass fed. According to sources most Wagyu in the United States is cross bred with Angus and thus only 50% Wagyu.
All vegetables, fruits, greens and herbs served by Chef Brana are regionally local. Chef Brana provided a great quote "don't want to preach about this, it should be assumed".
|Kobe & a Kardashian|
I loathe taking pictures of my meals and rarely do but I must admit that I wish I had some to share with you from this truly outstanding meal.
Chef Brana started with a perfect jab to the palate. He hit us with one of my favorite cuts of beef, the ribeye cap. His "Beef Nuta" featured meat from in between the fat on the ribeye cap. It was cooked sous-vide and mixed with nuta sauce comprised of saikyo miso, sake, rice wine vinegar and Japanese hot mustard. I enjoyed the soft texture of the dish as well as the balance of flavors provided by the cap and the nuta sauce. There was a subtle sweetness to the dish that I assume was produced by the Saikyo miso. It was a combination Sugar Ray would be proud of and a nice introduction to the outstanding product.
Chef Brana connected again in round two with his filet cured in the style of bresaola. The tenderloin was cured for three days and served with young local eggplant charred on a plancha and pureed with sliced cucumbers and chive flowers. After seeing the plating of the dish and taking my first bite, I blurted "Wolfie's!!!" I doubt that Chef Brana was shooting for a riff on a Jewish Deli but that is the sweet spot this dish tapped into. The sliced beef, cucumbers and charred eggplant really reminded me of a deli sandwich minus the bread.(think mustard/pickles) Regardless, the beef and combined flavors were perfect.
Chef Brana came out swinging and connected with a right hook to the jaw via his "Curry Oxtail" Terrine. Chef Brana's version was braised with Caribbean curry and served as a chilled terrine with carrot flowers, mustard and arugula greens, spicy vinegar and dijon mustard. I'm a terrine fan and Chef Brana's version was a tasty vehicle for the tail.
A severe body blow was delivered next via the picanha. The picanha is a small muscle from the cap of the sirloin. Chef Brana's really tender and flavorful picanha was accompanied by a blistered Teena'a Pride tomato, salsa criolla and thyme flowers. This dish was so good that it sent me to the canvass for an eight count.
I was dazed at this point and trying hard to recover. I knew that the planned Chowfather rope a dope wasn't going to work. That said, Chef Brana decided to be kind this round and kept the Wagyu in his corner, sort of... He danced around the ring to the tune of a beef consomme. It featured a butter poached turnip cooked (sous-vide), a local spring onion that was cooked in the same pan as the picanha (great call) and pasta cut into rings. The pasta was probably my least favorite item of the night (due to the tough competition) but was served perfectly al dente. The consomme was obviously packed with enjoyably rich flavors. This dish was a nice change of pace.
Let the record be clear, Chef Brana doesn't fight fair. Just as the bell rang for round six, he pummeled us with a huge upper cut to the jaw. "Down goes Chowfather!!" "Down goes Chowfather!!" I didn't see the knockout punch coming. Rib steak, potatoes cooked in beef fat, breakfast radish, braised lettuce and bordelaise. What more can I say besides Delicioso!! Chef Brana used a whole ribeye roast which was cooked slowly and served with small potatoes cooked in beef tallow, butter poached breakfast radish and lettuce. The tender steak melted in your mouth. I tried to eat this dish slowly in order to savor every bite but that was impossible. KO
Once the fight was called, Chef Brana tossed in a cheese course featuring cheddar from Neal's Yard in England served with mulberries. There was also some "Blis" bourbon barrel aged maple syrup on the plate. This was a very enjoyable cheese course.
Although the gloves were off, Chef Brana didn't mind sucker punching us with a haymaker for dessert. I'm not a flan lover but his simple version was all about showcasing the smooth custard which was perfectly sweet. I was pleasantly surprised to find a piece of Wagyu in the middle of the custard. I kid, I kid. Flan de Wagyu anyone??
As we finished dessert I glanced across the room and saw a bunch of happy faces on guests who were in no rush to leave.
Before leaving, there was one more surprise which was a tasty rosewater merengue.
Chef Brana clearly has modern and technically precise cooking skills. He also has a much appreciated light hand and really knows how to treat and respect quality ingredients.
I HIGHLY recommend paying a visit to one of Chef Brana's dinners. Chef Brana is a heavyweight whose food should not be missed.
Brana Food Group