The word “Wagyu” has been very vague to the Indonesian market, especially my hometown Jakarta, where the upper middle class easily goes for anything luxurious without needing to understand anything about it. Wagyu was simply known as “expensive”, and of course Japanese-related. Then, the know-it-all at the table will explain how the cattle were gently massaged everyday by a Thai ladyboy, put on a strict Christian Bale diet, and perhaps trained for Bolshoi, so that their meat would become extra tender and juicy.
The simple truth is: Wagyu is Wa-Gyu, and it literally means “Japanese beef”. A cut of Wagyu will look like marble with a fine pattern. That interweaving lace-like pattern comes from monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that the monounsaturated fats in Wagyu could assist in reducing cholesterol levels in our body. Best of all, they make Wagyu melt easily in our mouths.
How did Japanese cattle become Wagyu? Well, we’re talking about history that goes more than a thousand years here, where large animals like cattle and horses arrived in Japan. While horses then regulated by the government for military uses, cattle became the backbone of farming. These hardworking bunch were very precious property for the farmers. They weren’t there to produce meat or dairy products, but merely for farming. A cow have four compartments in its stomach, so – yes! – when the stomach is getting upset, the farmer would gently massage their cattle. Again, because they are precious.
Isolated and well-trained, these cattle evolved from generation to generation to become what we call full-blood Wagyu. 100% Wagyu. In the 1990’s, for the first time ever, live full-blood Japanese Wagyu females were allowed to be exported out of Japan. David Blackmore secured the exclusivity of these genetics and imported a large number of semen and embryos into Australia. Since then, the Blackmores have produced their own 100% Japanese Fullblood Wagyu cattle while many could only get crossbreeds. Crossbreeds are results of “mixed marriage” between Wagyu with Angus, or Wagyu with Holstein, for example. They are coded as F1. F1’s could be mated back to Wagyu to produce F2, which would be mated to Wagyu once more to produce F3, and so on, thus resulting a higher percentage of Wagyu genetics than F1 that only has 50%. However, these process will never reach 100% Wagyu genetics.
So, what they’re selling in the street as “cheap Wagyu” might be simply an F1. And, in Japan, they are not allowed to be labeled as Wagyu. Certification is very strict there. If it’s crossbreed, call it crossbreed. Just like muggles to real wizards in the world of Harry Potter.
Up to this day, Blackmore Wagyu – David Blackmore’s family business – produces only 55 cattle a month to cater to their global market. Every month they deliver only 200 kgs to Indonesia, 500 kgs to Singapore, and to UAE – their largest market – merely 1,500 kgs. A nice cut of Blackmore Wagyu could be served in Australia at a cool price of around AU$150.
I was lucky to enjoy the precious beef in a six-course dinner in Ombak Restaurant at Alila Villas Soori, Bali. I shared a long table with fellow foodies, next to the grandeur of the ocean, blessed with the sound of the mighty waves. The evening was cheerful as the glasses of wine filled.
Chef Dwayne Cheer opened the dinner with bressaola that came with celery, brioche, foie gras, Corella pear, and ox-tail jelly. Fine carpaccio to present Blackmore Wagyu’s marble pattern came next along with tempura oyster, tartare, bois boudran, parmesan and cress. Everybody’s favorite was the next surprising dish: Blackmore Shin Rendang Tortellini that came with mahi-mahi. Then, the grilled strip loin came in generous portions. The dinner was completed with sorbet and chocolate.
If anything, The Blackmore Wagyu Dinner at Alila Villas Soori confirmed my belief in real Wagyu. The full-blood Wagyu is the ultimate joy for carnivores.