The Apprentice decided to order the $70 Emperor’s Cut steak sandwich – a 150g piece of prime Rangers Valley wagyu –a wonderful cut of scotch fillet with a nine-plus marbling score (which sells at the butcher’s next door for $249 a kilo), while the rest of us opted for either a wagyu burger or smoked brisket sandwich.
He caressed it, he kissed it and with every loving bite of rare wagyu he would smile and then grunt in a deep baritone that could rival Jim Morrison’s voice. He had wanted to try the Emperor’s Cut ever since he read about it in one of our daily newspapers and now he was at the cave and it was in front of him and it was becoming a part of him.
The Apprentice’s steak sandwich is rumored to be the most expensive steak sandwich in Australia and is available from the Vic’s Meats’ Wagyu Bar at the Sydney Fish Market (the latest enterprise of Victor Churchill Butcher – one of Sydney’s prime butchers).
Watching The Apprentice devour his very expensive sandwich provided much amusement – but it wasn’t as funny as witnessing the expression he received from Chef Eric Chan when he ordered it. We all weren’t sure whether it was a look of disbelief from Chef Chan (because The Apprentice looked like a young trailblazer in a suit with too much money to throw away), or of disdain (because The Apprentice looked like a young trailblazer in a suit with too much money to throw away). It didn’t matter as Chef Chan was very happy to take his money after he saw that The Apprentice was very serious about throwing away his money. We were later told the sandwich was actually $85 – the meat alone costs $70 (Chef Chan obviously took pity on him and thought he may be of need of a marriage-saving discount).
The Apprentice’s colleagues, which included yours truly; Me Julie and Heracles, weren’t worthy of such a piece of beast and ordered from next door at Kong’s Cave – which offers American-style smokehouse meats (think Carolina, Tennessee and Texan BBQ styles). Here you can get a smoked brisket sandwich; a wagyu cheeseburger or pulled pork sandwich (all for $10) or upsize to a double wagyu cheese burger ($15). The smoky goodness doesn’t stop there – you can get chicken wings ($8), beef short ribs ($30), pork ribs ($40) and lamb riblets ($12). There’s also some fine Young Henry’s beer available as well as American Dr Pepper or Barqs root beer on the soda tap. If you order from the Wagyu Bar you can get a class of Penfold’s Grange!
Kong’s Cave is named after a purposely built two-tonne smoker named Kong. Kong hails from Kansas City and apparently is the largest such smoker in Australia with the capacity to smoke 200kg of meat (Vic’s Meats smokes with ironbark and applewood). Kong smokes everything from pork butt for the pulled pork, to the beef brisket, the chicken wings and the wagyu to feed the masses yearning for some smoky-flavored carnivore barbecue.
I went for the beef brisket, slices of salty, peppery smoked tender beef in a soft roll topped with fresh slaw and a deep tomato sticky Texan-style sauce. It was good, very good. It took me back to the Lone Star State but I just needed it to be a bit bigger – as big as the heart of Texas bigger.
Heracles ordered one of each – the wagyu cheese burger and the beef brisket while Me Julie also had a cheeseburger (and with European/Baltic finesse discreetly picked out her dill pickle). Heracles thought the beef brisket won hands down over the cheese burger. Me Julie liked her burger but thought that for $10 there needed to be something extra on it – she didn’t know what (maybe a cheeseburger royal type of concept)?
The three of us devoured our rolls quite quickly and The Apprentice was left to savour every morsel of his sophisticated sandwich while we checked out the butchers which is a walk-in cool room next door. The room is full of organic and prime meats for sale – including whole beasts. There’s also a meat “candy bar” – where you can pick and mix set up where you can make your biltong and jerky varieties and pay by weight. Prices are reasonably good especially considering you are getting some of the best meat available in the country.
When we returned from our meat gazing we found The Apprentice chatting to Chef Chan (and that is when the man crush began), about wagyu. Chef Chan is now idolised by The Apprentice who is affectionately referred as his “meat master”.
And what about The Apprentice’s steak sandwich? Well, unlike our burgers which were wrapped in paper, his was served on fine china and included a couple of varieties of crisp lettuce. He reckons the Emperor’s Cut was the chocolate of meat – it just melted – the best steak he has ever had and was worth every silver dollar.
For his sake (and wallet’s), I hope the experience was more Lindt than Cadbury.
The verdict: Offers some great US barbecue styles for the meat lover and if the wallet permits, Australia’s most expensive steak – perfect for young trailblazers.
What: Vic’s Meat Market (Kong’s Cave and the Wagyu Bar), 50-60 Bank St, Pyrmont, NSW 2009 Australia (at the Sydney Fish Market). Open seven days 10am to 3pm (butchery open from 9am to 5pm).
Ate there: June 2015.