With Age Comes Wisdom and…Flavour
As a seasoned ‘road warrior’ I have the dubious privilege of eating in lots of 4 and 5 star hotels around the world. Unfortunately, it’s not always a ‘great’ experience. Take last night for example. I’m currently staying in a well-known premium hotel in Johannesburg, and anyone who knows Joburg (or Africa in general) knows that meat is always on the menu. There is Buffalo to Springbok and everything in between. These guys are true carnivores. They love their meat, and they know how to cook it too.
This time around, my hotel featured a specialty premium steakhouse, so I was sorted for dinner. I also think it was fair on my part to assume they would be able to provide a great steak, agree? Interestingly, on this occasion this was not the case. I opted for the Ribeye, one of the more expensive prime cuts on the menu and compared to Sydney prices the meal was off to a great start. The price of the steak was super reasonable and up until the point where I actually tasted the steak, all was right with the world. Then, it wasn’t. Houston, we have a problem. Even though the meat was cooked perfectly and looked the part on the plate, it had less flavour than a poorly made hamburger. It was worse than a patty from that burger franchise with the big yellow arches. So, what gives?
I took the restaurant manager to task. I think it was fair to assume a steakhouse restaurant in a 5-star hotel should be capable of delivering a Ribeye that actually tastes of something, preferably beef. It didn’t take long to get to the root of the problem. Time was the culprit…and I mean time on the hook. When I queried the meat ageing process of the restaurant, I was assured all of the meat was correctly aged for maximum taste. I wasn’t completely convinced and after further enquiry (and some robust discussion) it soon became clear that the ageing process was more aspirational than actual…very disappointing.
The officially declared goal of the restaurant was to age prime cuts for at least 30 days. My steak had clearly taken a detour around this process tasting like the butcher had just sliced it from a freshly processed animal. I wondered if my steak had literally come straight from paddock to plate. It turns out that the eating experience had been severely compromised by poor planning and high turnover. And whilst being really busy is what every restaurant owner dreams about, serving up average steaks because they haven’t had time to age them correctly is a quick way to put that enviable achievement into reverse.
Needless to say, this is one steakhouse restaurant I will not be revisiting any time soon. I’m unlikely to revisit the hotel again either. And the lesson for me ( and hopefully the restaurant) was how critical and essential ageing is to allow premium beef to develop its full potential and flavour. Like lots of great things in life, time provides an opportunity for flavour to emerge. The delightful Stellenbosch Pinotage that I enjoyed with my Ribeye proved that point. It’s a shame the meat did not match the wine for quality and depth of flavour. Sadly, it was an opportunity for a memorable meal missed and a very bad miss on gaining a new loyal customer. Next Restaurant, next hotel.
Writer: Michael Hanlon . Director International Markets . Troika GTM