It’s been a while since a big-named steakhouse, much less a New York-styled one like Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, has opened in Singapore.
Opened by father-son duo Wolfgang and Peter Zwiener, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse started in New York in 2004 and has grown into a global group with 18 restaurants in places such as Hawaii, Tokyo, Manila, and soon, Cyprus. They’ve made a name for themselves serving sub-primal cuts of prime USDA Black Angus meat, dry aged in a proprietary designed aging room for 28 days. Together with a particular style of hospitality (Wolfgang was the head waiter at highly revered Brooklyn steakhouse, Peter Luger for over 40 years), this is a meal you won’t be replicating at home any time soon.
We spoke with Peter Zwiener, president and co-founder of the Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, when he was in town and grilled (pun fully intended) him on why their steaks are a cut above the rest.
What’s the secret to Wolfgang’s Steakhouse?
I’ll like to say we do things the old fashioned way. We fly in USDA Prime Beef (Black Angus) fresh, straight from the ranch two to three days after its been slaughtered, then we dry age the meat on our premisies.
Sounds complicated. Can you walk us through the dry aging process?
It’s not that complicated. We have a low pressure compressor and keep the temperature constant (between one and three degrees Celsius) with a humidity of 70 percent for an average of 28 days. We keep the airflow going in, make sure to rotate the beef, and try not to have too many foreign elements (fish, vegetables) in the room that could affect the flavour of the beef.
Can any piece of meat be dry aged?
It all depends on the quality of the beef. Dry aging works best with a super high grade beef, a certain marbleization, with an intermuscular fat level that’s well defined, spread out and not in chunks. You need bone as well to protect the beef. Once its dry aged, it developes a shell which you need to trim out, and you lose about 40 per cent of the beef in the process. That’s why you can’t dry age a filet mignon, you can only wet age, as there is no fat or bone about it. If you try to dry age it, all you’ll get is a tiny piece of meat and most of it will be rotten. When you have a short loin or a porterhouse, there’s a great layer of fat (and more fat in the inner cavity) and this is much better suited for the overall dry age process.
Why 28 days?
There was a scientific study done that the more time you dry age it, the more tender the meat becomes. The time of the ageing process is like cheese. The flavour develops in the process, taking on an earthy, nuttier flavour. 28 days is the perfect environment as you will retain 96 percent of the tenderness. That means after 28 days, you only have 4 percent more to go, but the taste profile could change. It can get too intense, too meaty after 28 days and some people don’t like it.
Why not just wet age instead?
Wet age doesn’t add any flavour. You’re not allowing the blood of the beef to interact, it’s just bleeding out and getting dry on the inside.
There are Wolfgang’s Steakhouses in Japan, Korea, China, etc. How do taste and flavour profiles differ across Asia?
In Japan, they like their beef a bit fattier, more cooked. Koreans don’t like too much salt and in China, they like to have their beef sliced. Overall, every culture has a little difference, but in general, in Asia, they like to have meat cooked a bit more than in the United States of America – and maybe to enhance it with some type of flavour or sauce e.g. tabasco, wasabi, etc.
Isn’t this a bad thing?
Well, if you have a really good piece of beef, you should try not to add more flavour to it because it should be about the meat. Most times when you cover the flavour, you don’t have a good piece of beef. At Wolfgang’s we like to say the meat sells itself. We buy a piece of steak. We age it, slice it, salt it, broil it, slice it again, plate it and then put it back in the broiler to cook (in its juices) and bring it sizzling to the table.
What if I want my steak well done?
I don’t mind at all. If the guest asks for my recommendation, I would say medium rare. But I’m not the type of owner to object. In reality, when you get such an expensive, high-end piece of steak, by asking for it well done, you’re losing the benefits of that expensive cut of beef – but we do whatever our guest wants.
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is at 1 Nanson Road #02-01 InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay, tel: 6887 5885, wolfgangssteakhouse.sg