‘Wagyu Fungo’ by Soon Wiley
From Harpur Palate:
I hate when customers order their steak well-done. We cook wagyu steaks at my restaurant. And don’t give me any of that shit about real wagyu beef being illegal to import because of new trade restrictions with Japan. I go to a butcher in Little Tokyo where they bring it in for the few reputable restaurants in L.A. that don’t sling that half-breed “faux-be” beef to the wannabe foodie-masses. This is the real fucking thing: steaks with marbling so wide and white that you swear you could dive right in and swim through the channels of luscious, supple fat. I’m talking about steaks so beautiful, you’d give yourself a black eye, just so you could slap a raw one on your face.
I hate seeing these parentheses under the order: well-done. It’s a sign of disrespect; not to me, this isn’t about my ego. This is about the meat, the cow, the feed that cow consumed, the rainwater that cow drank. Sometimes I wish I had a live, black Okayama cow on-hand, just so I could trot it out the double-doors of my kitchen, down the sloping hallway into the dining room and show it to the customers. “Look at this spectacular animal you are about to eat,” I could say. “Look at what you are asking me to cook to death.” Then I could ask them where the sirloin comes from. I could ask them to point out the flank and brisket cuts. These people – they think steak comes from Styrofoam plates wrapped in plastic. They think medium-rare is raw.
I only have twelve steaks tonight, like every night. And I already have to char the life out of two of them. On the ticket it says they’re meant to go to table ten. I want to get a look at these people, see who I’m committing this culinary crime for. I give the steaks to one of my line-cooks. “Leave them on until they’re black,” I say. He looks at me, worried. He knows what well-done orders do to me. If these people want well-done I’m going to cook these steaks until they’re tougher than a bull’s neck. They’re going to think they just bit into a truck tire. I want their teeth to crack into chalky dust when they try to chew through their excuse of a steak.
It’s only six-thirty and the restaurant is nearly empty – except for table ten – a young couple, maybe mid-twenties. I should go over there and say something. Who the fuck eats a steak this early on a Friday night? That’s what I want to know.
Photograph by momo.