Food #4: Porterhouse steak

Steak and chips is my all-time favourite meal. I probably eat it once a fortnight as a minimum. Nothing fancy, just a big slab of medium-rare meat, chips fresh from the fryer and a side of sautéed mushrooms.

If it’s a special occasion, like my birthday, I’ll probably triple-cook the chips and do a béarnaise sauce with it. But that’s about it. I like it nice and simple, with little in the way of distractions from the beef itself.

Until I started to develop a keen interest in food about six or seven years ago, I ordered steak pretty much everywhere I went. However, because I didn’t go to many places of real quality, the choice tended to be limited to just three cuts: rump, sirloin and fillet.

If I was lucky, there might be a rib-eye I could choose instead, but they never had the one cut I really wanted.

The one that always seemed to be in films.

The one with the cool name.

The one they called… T-bone.

When I put The List together T-bone steak went straight on there. I’d pined after it for the best part of two decades and still not managed to come across it, so it was an obvious choice. Its appeal had also advanced beyond the fact it sounds like a gangster rapper. I now knew it was made up of different parts of the cow – the top loin and the tenderloin (aka the fillet) – so you get two steaks in one.*

Unfortunately, a couple of days later, I had to take it off The List. I remembered that I had actually eaten a T-bone, five years earlier at a random pub in York. It was a rubbish experience – owing to poor quality beef and shoddy cooking – but one that clearly meant it was disqualified.

Undeterred, I started looking for an alternative; a cut of beef that could match the T-bone for flavour and sex appeal. In the end, I came across the porterhouse, which actually sounded much, much better.** It might not have made it into the Wu-Tang Clan, but it was definitely going to make it on to my plate.***

Goodman Steak Restaurants in London are meant to be among the country’s best steakhouses, if not the best. They offer extremely high quality USDA beef, as well as British varieties, and cook it all on a Josper Grill, the Rolls Royce of charcoal ovens.

Andy Hayler, the food critic famous for having eaten at all of the world’s three-star Michelin restaurants, raved about the steak he had at the branch on Maddox Street in Mayfair. What better place could I visit to give the porterhouse a spin?

My wife and I went to Goodman (the one on the purple bit of the Monopoly board) on the third day of our honeymoon. I was immediately impressed by the huge, wooden-handled shank that was placed before me on the table instead of the usual steak knife. Any restaurant that gives me a weapon to carve up my beef clearly means business.

We skipped starters and went straight for the steaks, ordering a 600g bone-in rib-eye and 600g porterhouse to share between us.****

I tried the rib-eye first and it was incredible. From field to plate, you could tell the love that had gone into it. It was a beautiful piece of beef, perfectly aged and perfectly cooked. The char on it was awesome; the taste mega. Stalin would go to bed at night dreaming he had the authority this flavour commanded.

It was in a totally different league to the best steak I’ve had in the UK (at Gaucho) and even topped the best I’ve ever had, at Ben & Jacks Steakhouse in New York.

Nevertheless, it couldn’t hold a candle to the porterhouse, at least as far as my tastebuds are concerned. It was clearly of the same standard, but I found myself preferring the milder, cleaner and much more defined flavour of the top loin. It was like putting a Humvee up against an Aston Martin – I can appreciate the big, hulking juggernaut, but I’m going to choose James Bond’s car every time.

Still, even an Aston Martin seems a bit lame next to a Bugatti Veyron, and so the top loin did here. The tenderloin wasn’t just in another league, it was on another planet.

Whoever it was who said fillet steak doesn’t have any flavour needs to be hunted down and beaten to death with a top tier porterhouse. Andy Hayler said he’s had superior beef at a couple of places, but I can’t imagine how this could be bettered. It just sang.

Two days earlier I’d been at Hibiscus eating roast duck foie gras and thinking: “Is this ambrosia – the food of the gods?”

In Goodman, Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared and answered my question. “No,” he whispered. “There is another…”

I had beef Rossini at Alain Ducasse a few nights later. Afterwards I concluded that it was probably the best dish I’d ever had, but the fillet of beef itself couldn’t compare to the tenderloin at Goodman. It went beyond wizard; it was full-on Jedi.

And as a Star Wars geek, my praise doesn’t really get any higher than that.

Verdict: Highest possible recommendation, but with the caveat that you try it somewhere really good. It doesn’t matter how great the cut is, if the beef’s not of a high quality or it hasn’t been aged well or cooked properly, you won’t have a special experience.

NEXT UP: Dom Perignon 2000 (technically it should be something else, but I was so excited when I drank this Champagne today, I figured I’d let it jump the queue…)

——————————

*The tenderloin may not be substantial on a T-bone, but you’re still getting a bonus steak. It’s like going to a brothel and buying 60 minutes with an alright prostitute and then finding out you get 5 minutes with a really good one as part of the package.

**The porterhouse is very closely related to the T-bone, with both cuts being taken from the short loin of the cow. So similar are they that apparently some butchers will label a porterhouse as a T-bone, in order to avoid confusing customers. The porterhouse is actually taken from the larger end of the short loin, so it comes with a much bigger portion of fillet.

***Sorry, that was a much longer introduction than expected.

****We didn’t intentionally go for exactly the same as Mr Hayler, but it seems we’ve got similar tastes where beef is concerned. I do very much enjoy a rib-eye steak and I was interested to see how it tasted cooked on the bone and how the porterhouse stacked up against it.

As per usual, I said “no” to sauces – I wanted to taste the beef all on its own.

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Posted on August 27, 2011, in Foods To Try Before You Die and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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