International Steakhouses Offer Flair, Ethnic Accents
Corporate Chef Ce Bian
Some carnivores prefer their steaks classic and rare, while others like them with a little ethnic flair. Those in the latter category will now find more choices as internationally inspired steakhouse concepts have exploded throughout the country within the last eight years.
While they offer an intriguing alternative to classic steakhouses serving traditional meat and potatoes and the occasional white asparagus, some have been criticized for using low-grade beef. That’s not in the case of the contemporary Japanese-inspired Roka Akor, an Arizona-based restaurant group with locations in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Scottsdale. According to Corporate Chef Ce Bian, Roka Akor only uses prime beef and authentic Japanese Wagyu beef.
“The key to success is the quality of meat, and only five percent of cows in the United States make prime beef,” explained Bian. He believes that by offering quality meat, it puts them on a level playing field with the more traditional and established steakhouse concepts. And that, in turn, helps Roka Akor attract the steakhouse purists.
What sets them apart is that Roka Akor prepares all steaks on the robatayaki, which slow cooks meats over hot charcoals. It’s a traditional Japanese method of barbecuing and helps extract flavors and juiciness of the beef as well as seafood and vegetables. Bian prefers this method because it helps with consistency. The restaurants’ servers also encourage guests to dine communal style to sample a variety of dishes.
Bian adds that the emergence of globally focused steakhouses has inspired classic and modern steakhouses to sprinkle a little ethnic flair at their establishments. For example, he continues, more steakhouses are serving sushi and tuna poké as appetizers, plus sweet potatoes and bok choy as side dishes.
His recommendations for when you visit a Roka Akor: “You can get meat and potatoes at any steakhouse, but here you’re given exotic choices, so take advantage of them.”
Considering adding a little ethnic flair or fusion to a classic or modern steakhouse menu? Here are some examples of restaurants doing it well:
- Artango Bar & Steakhouse. The flashy Chicago steakhouse is rooted in Argentine cuisine. There’s live music and dancing, but the kitchen cranks out serious, well-defined fare. There’s a number of prime beef cuts on the menu, from a 12-ounce filet mignon to a 20-ounce ribeye. Most steaks are marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil before grilling.
- Capa. The Spanish-inspired steakhouse in Orlando offers prime, dry-aged steaks, of course, but guests may order shaved truffles or rioja sauce as toppings. Also, Spanish charcuterie, house-spiced hazelnuts and ham croquettes add intrigue to the appetizer menu.
- CarneVino Italian Steakhouse. Owned by culinary power duo Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, CarneVino boasts an in-house butcher who hand-selects the high-quality beef. The menu includes a number of handmade pastas and crudo as well as Italian sides like charred baby artichokes with mint salsa verde and Tuscan fries topped with fresh herbs and olive oil. It’s based in Las Vegas.