In Japan, Wagyu beef is king and chef Kentaro Nakahara is the meat’s most trusted keeper. At his famous Tokyo yakiniku (Japanese for “grilled meat”) restaurant Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara, guests sit down to a sumptuous all-Wagyu feast that includes what may be the world’s best and most expensive sandwich—the Wagyu katsu sando. The name may leave you tongue-tied, and the price tag may induce meat sweats, but the velvety A-5 Wagyu tenderloin cutlet is well worth it.
For 24,805 yen, or roughly $229, you get several very rare cuts of legendary Wagyu tongue, seven kinds of beef and the prized filet katsu sandwich, or sando as its called in Japan. Like at the Korean barbecue-meets-American steakhouse Cote in New York, you’re treated to dinner and a show as each slice of thinly cut, obscenely marbled Wagyu is expertly cooked in front of you by Nakahara himself or one of his excellent grill aficionados.
The grilled courses are accompanied by Wagyu consomme soup, freshly harvested vegetable salad, Wagyu beef rice bowl and a pistachio gelato dessert are an added bonus. But let’s not mince meat, I mean words, everyone’s here for the same reason—the perfect Wagyu sando.
You’re almost done with the experience by the time this crispy, buttery course arrives. The thick cut of tenderloin is coated in panko and delicately fried rice oil, then sandwiched between two sweet, toasted buns smeared with a housemade tomato puree. Nakahara pairs the sando with a richly-carbonated dark lager with the larger bubbles opening up the tastebuds so you can savor every bit of the sando’s unique flavor.
What makes it so tasty? Chef Nakahara says, “It’s the crispness, the balance of sweet, sour, salt and texture. Balance is the most important thing to make my wagyu tenderloin cutlet sandwich.” Using the finest-quality Tamura Wagyu raised in Hyogo Prefecture doesn’t hurt either.
Besides top-notch beef, there are many factors that go into making a slice of meat taste like pure buttery, juicy goodness. How you cut it is one of them. “I butcher my Wagyu myself. I slice the parts from a block of Wagyu season it and grill it. Usually, Wagyu chefs don’t do it by themselves, but I’ve been doing it for 17 years,” says Nakahara. He carefully selects all his Wagyu from the Tokyo Central meat market and delicately grills each piece over binchō-tan, a special Japanese charcoal, with close, intense flames.
Many visitors to Japan may see a similar looking katsu sandos in 7/11s and Lawson’s around the country, but these pale in comparison to the masterful Wagyu creation. First off, they are pork cutlet katsu sandos. Chef Nakahara is the first to use Wagyu in this celebrated Japanese sandwich, enhancing the flavor and juiciness of the classic. He says, “It is totally different.”
He’s also well aware of the imitators out there. “I created this dish first, and many places are copying it. But in my opinion, they are very far off from my sandwich because of the way it is fried and toasted. Plus the ingredients are so different.”
Reservations through Pocket Concierge are highly recommended for this ninth-floor restaurant in the Ichigaya neighborhood of Tokyo. Keep in mind while there is another less expensive menu option, the priciest option is the only one that includes the coveted sando.
For those who can’t make it to Tokyo, the famed chef will be in Chicago at 8:30 p.m. October 10 hosting a ticketed burger and bourbon dinner at The Loyalist with Michelin two-star-chef John Shields. Now, you won’t get the Insta-famous Wagyu katsu sando, but we bet you’ll get a pretty damn good burger.