The term steakhouse carries with it all kinds of gluttonous connotations. Big cuts, big sides, big, stretchy waistbands. And while there is certainly a time and place for that kind of indulgent meal, the team behind a new “steak restaurant” in Beverly Hills says, in no uncertain terms: a steakhouse they are not.
“There’s lots of steakhouses. The world didn’t need another steakhouse,” restaurant co-founder Jerry Greenberg said. “We’re offering a different kind of eating experience. There’s actually not a place like this anywhere in the world that we’re aware of that serves this kind of beef in this kind of format.”
Matū (pronounced “mah-too”), which opened July 8, exclusively offers 100 percent grass-fed Wagyu. At the restaurant, the beef is primarily served in a multicourse tasting menu, a riff on a traditional omakase meal, so diners can experience different cuts in a variety of preparations without having to order full, isolated steaks for the table. (Diners may still order a la carte if they’d like.)
All of the restaurant’s Wagyu is sourced from New Zealand’s First Light Farms, which boasts sustainable and regenerative ranching techniques. (In the Māori language indigenous to New Zealand, Matū means “essence.”) Greenberg (Sugarfish, Uovo, HiHo Cheeseburger), who is now an investor in the cooperative farm, says it’s the best beef he’s ever eaten—professionally and personally.
“It’s grass-fed, so it’s clean in the mouth, but it’s Wagyu so it has marbling and a great, beefy natural taste to it,” he said. “Marbled, grass-fed beef is almost unheard of. It’s more healthful and your body can feel it. You don’t have that heavy feeling after you leave.”
For this restaurant that has been in the works since 2018, Greenberg is joined by Michael Odell (First Light Steak Club), Ryan Gianola (Hillstone Restaurant Group), Scott Linder (private chef), Lowell Sharron (UOVO, HiHo, First Light Steak Club) and Mark Schatzker (author of Steak). Linder runs the back of the house, Gianola runs the front of the house, and with Greenberg and Odell they form a “chef team” led by Linder that perfects the dishes.
“We all shared this passion [for steak] and then for many reasons, we connected. I guess it was our calling,” Greenberg said. “The collaboration is powerful. We don’t have to have any single-threaded ideas.”
The five-course Wagyu Dinner is the core of the menu and it changes daily. It includes a variety of dishes like beef broth made from simmering Wagyu bones for 24 hours, tenderloin carpaccio, ribeye cooked over a wood fire and eight-hour braised beef cheeks. Every course is paired with a vegetable such as maitake mushrooms or broccolini. Each diner is served about 12 to 14 ounces of beef total, depending on what’s on the menu that night.
The 60-seat dining room and bar, designed by the architects at Marmol Radziner, shows off the cooking process, with a window into the kitchen allowing diners to observe the steak being prepared over a wood-fired grill.
Even though Matū’s opening was delayed about six months because of the pandemic, their beef supply line was not disrupted, so the team was able to spend the extra time in the test kitchen, perfecting their techniques. They use multiple forms of cooking—over an open flame, braising, a la plancha—but treat the meat the same way regardless of the cooking method, managing its temperature throughout the entire process so it winds up at the desired temperature.
“Certainly, we didn’t invent cooking steak, but we looked at all the methods and came up with our own approach,” Greenberg said.
That approach involves tempering the meat, cooking it over high, direct heat to form a sear and finishing it in the oven or in a pan. The goal is for the steak to remain red but have a warm center, or look rare but be at a medium-rare temperature, and for the fat to have rendered but for the protein structure to have not yet tightened.
“When someone eats a steak at Matū, we hope it has a texture and a flavor that surprises them, but they should recognize it very much as eating beef in the United States; it’s not like eating it in some other part of the world,” Greenberg said. “Even though it’s presented in a different style, we are hoping to generate the best version of how we in the United States cook beef.”
Greenberg said he has been on a personal quest the past two decades—even before he got into the restaurant business—to learn how to make the best steak possible. His journey has taken him from the South of France to Argentina to Japan to eat thousands of steaks and learn from the meat pros. Along the way, he gave up his die-hard dedication to dry-aged, grain-fed prime beef and now exclusively eats wet-aged, grass-fed Wagyu. (Dry aging tenderizes the meat and concentrates its flavors; wet aging tenderizes the meat without altering its flavors.)
“I’ve eaten so much beef and cooked so much beef over the years, our whole team has, that you start to gain some insights into the flavors I probably didn’t taste 20 years ago,” he said. “[This Wagyu] tastes better, it’s better for me, and it’s better for the environment.”
Sustainability is a popular talking point among chefs right now, but Matū’s perspective is quite different from some other prominent restaurateurs, like Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, who are touting the benefits of veganism. Greenberg says he is not worried about turning diners off with their focus on meat.
“Sustainability is a very dense and complex topic with a lot of opinions,” Greenberg said. “We try to understand it as best we can and then make our choices from there. Our point of view is that when you’re here in our restaurant, you’re eating beef that we think is great from a health and sustainability standpoint.
“We don’t feel like we need to sell people on beef, but if you’re going to have beef, have great beef. It’s a good choice.”
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