The Oaks - Terminate the Tomahawk

I generally think I'm a pretty positive person and a "glass-half-full" kind of guy. I say this because I like to think I see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. And particularly food establishments that are trying to do new and innovative things. So you can appreciate my disappointment recently with The Oaks Hotel and their inability to cook a $100 steak correctly.

Let's take a step back. The first place I lived in Sydney was Neutral Bay, back in March of 2002. It was one of the first pubs I visited and was the place that helped me settle in to my new country. I've taken friends and family from around the world there. It was like a comfortable blanket. Good food, good friends, good drinks, footy on the big screen, and some pool (and limited "wankiness").

Recently, the owners decided it was time to take the place upmarket and relaunch things as a steak bistro. It's commendable, really. But they have removed the indoor BBQ (which sucks - and do they know I met Barnesy there?!), took down the indoor big screen, and removed the outdoor big screen. So if you're there for a meal with friends you're pretty much screwed if it's cold or rainy. And there's no place to watch the footy while having a meal. And they are seriously trying to eliminate the cook-your-own option. Those are big misses, in my book.

In any case, my mate has been raving for weeks about their new "Tomahawk" steak, which weighs in at about $100 and is intended to be shared by a few friends. A few weeks back he convinced me to have a go with him and his brother. I was pretty excited and had a bit of a food orgasm when it arrived.

You can imagine my disappointment when we cut into it and found it to be well done. That's a fucking crime! Forget the price, the poor cow that sacrificed itself would be rolling in its grave. "We're sorry, they are hard to cook evenly, particularly near the bone. Would you like some free gelato?" was the response we got. No, I want a nicely cooked steak or my $100 back, thank you!

Time heals all wounds, if you will, and last night my mate convinced me to have another go. "Mate, they were fantastic the first four times I had them." Ok, dude, let's see what they can do. He goes to the kitchen, explains our last experience and asks for them to get it nicely medium-rare. What do we get? Blue. Pretty much raw. Damn it. My mate returns it and says another is on its way. 

Fast forward one hour and I'm starting to get a bit frustrated. I'm hungry! And then it arrives. Finally! Wait, no, seriously.... IT'S FUCKING WELL DONE! Yep, ladies and gents, this is a $100 steak that is cooked to death with a medium-rare flag in it.

At this point I've had enough. In all honesty, I can't remember the last time I have sent anything back to a kitchen, if I ever have at all. So I walk it to the kitchen - the Gourmet Male is in a good place. Frustrated, but calm. "Look, it's obvious this is too hard to cook correctly so can we just get our money back please?". Then it gets real - the manager has a go that we keep trying parts of the steaks and returning them. Um yeah, that's how most humans actually try food to only then find that their 10 year old niece can cook it better.

Then the chef decides he wants to enter the discussion and tell me I don't know how to cook steak and that it's hard to get the Tomahawk cooked properly throughout. It's on. "Um, maybe sous vide it and then grill it for a minute on each side? That way YOU can't screw it up... Or maybe just practice on the grill and find a time and technique that gives you consistent results." Sous vide seems to confuse him. So I kindly ask to see the steak I returned and show him the aforementioned crucified piece of meat. "Please, please tell me how that's medium-rare." I get a head shake. At this point all I want is a good meal and my money back. So they give up and return our money and I go back to our table, furious.

As I begin to spew my frustration all over my friends the manager returns. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to have a go at you." That's actually pretty brave. And cool. But seriously, if they get it wrong three times isn't it time to either take it off the menu or get a new chef? (or both) "No way, we wouldn't take it off the menu!". Ok, then. The result? The four tables next to us who were drooling when it arrived were kindly advised to avoid it at all costs. A shame.

So, the beer is still good. The footy is pretty much gone. And the new steakhouse relaunch is seriously suspect. Why couldn't they leave well enough alone? I'll just grab a pie next door next time. $6 and they know how to cook it properly.

Orangeville Pastoral - 1kg T-Bone Meaty Goodness

Sometimes I feel like only my family and kindest friends read Gourmet Male. Other times, something comes out of the blue that shows me that I have a much bigger reach than I thought. Just the other day I received an email from Shaun at Orangeville Pastoral asking if I would be willing to try one of his steaks and to provide my feedback. Why not? So I sent my address in Crows Nest over and got a reply saying they supply MuMu in the suburb so why not go over and try one of their steaks there? Fantastic! What was the recommendation? The 1kg t-bone for two...

* disclaimer: Orangeville Pastoral paid for our dinner, unsolicited. I didn't commit to a post or a favourable review but we enjoyed the steak so much that I volunteered to talk about the experience.

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I'm on a big kick about local producers at the moment. Butter, cheese, veggies, meat. There is just so many incredible choices that I feel guilty taking the lazy option and dropping into Coles or Woolies. So when Shaun contacted me saying they were trying to build their brand I couldn't refuse an opportunity to see what they do.

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When we got to MuMu Chef Craig and his team took great care of us. We had a couple beers and wines and had a great little starter. But we were here for steak and laid down the gauntlet for the 1kg t-bone. And we weren't disappointed! The steak was cooked well, although I can imagine it's hard to get such a massive steak perfect all over. And the meat was so flavourful. As worried as we were about having too much meat, it was a perfect sized meal for me and the Gourmet Female.

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In any case, give them a try. I definitely will. We need to support local producers and keep the Aussie food ecosystem healthy. You can try their stuff at Butcher Direct. And of course, I'd recommend the 1kg t-bone!

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Welcome Neil Perry! Cooking the Perfect Steak

This week we feature a guest blog by Neil Perry of Rockpool

Some months back now, GourmetMale approached us and asked if Neil Perry would like to write a guest blog for his site, which aims to get men cooking, and cooking well. What a great idea! Neil was keen, of course as he is all for anyone having a go and why do something half hearted, ever? Following is Neil’s blog on cooking the perfect steak, along with a video he made for the superlative Cape Grim...and of course a recipe for you. Enjoy.

‘The perfect steak’

(courtesy Neil Perry)

(courtesy Neil Perry)

First things first. If we are going to cook the perfect steak, we better start out with the right produce – the best steaks we can find. We use only the finest cattle at Rockpool, a favourite being those that have been grass-fed and only finished on grain if drought conditions make it necessary. Grass-fed beef differs from lot-fed beef in that it has a more natural beef flavour and a much better Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. This makes it better for you, and the cow enjoys a much healthier and happier life. This is really important. Then follow these basic rules

Beef rib barbecued with anchovy butter

I love this dish served with a creamy potato gratin and a green leaf salad. Serves 4

Ingredients
4 x 250g aged beef ribs
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
4 spoonfuls of anchovy butter
Freshly ground pepper
For the butter
8 large anchovy fillets
Sea salt
1 lemon, juiced
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper

Method
To prepare the butter, place the anchovies and a little salt in a mortar and pound with a pestle until they start to break up. Add the lemon juice and butter, then plenty of pepper. Mix completely. Put to one side until ready to plate the steaks.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator two hours before cooking and season with sea salt. Preheat the barbecue to hot and make sure the grill bars are clean. Drizzle the steaks with extra virgin olive oil and shake off any excess. Put the steaks on the grill at a 45-degree angle to the grill bars. When halfway through cooking that side, turn the steaks 45 degrees in the opposite direction. When done, turn them over and cook the other side. Put the steaks on a plate, cover with foil and keep them in a warm spot to rest.

Use the touch test to check for “doneness”. A rare steak will be soft to the touch and will spring back when pressed. As it cooks, the steak will become firmer and firmer to touch. If you see the juices come to the surface as red droplets, your steak will be medium-rare, probably heading to medium after resting; if the juices are pink to clear, you have a well-done steak.

Place one steak on each of four plates. Pour the juices from the resting plate over the steaks and add a spoonful of the anchovy butter. Add a grind of fresh pepper and serve immediately.

The Steak Sandwich - oh how I miss Steak Umms

I know for my first food post I should probably focus on something a bit more toward the high end of town, but for me nothing beats a good steak sandwich. Which is why it's amazing, really, that I haven't had one in ten years. I moved to Australia ten years ago today and I might have rethought the move had I known what the Aussies consider a steak sandwich - literally a piece of cheap steak between two slices of white bread.

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Now, one can debate what makes a true steak (or cheesesteak) sandwich, with the strongest arguments coming from the Philly crowd. But I grew up in New England and ours were made with none other than Steak Umms and Cheez Whiz. Yes, THAT Cheez Whiz - the one of unnatural colours and rubbery texture when cool. Add some real mayo, tomatoes, and lettuce and you had one hell of a sandwich.

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So today I decided to go on an Australian culinary journey of my own to try to recreate the steak sandwich of my youth. I bought some "fry steaks" from Woolies ($5!), which were thin but really not nearly as thin as a slice of Steak Umm. I also decided to go with a French baguette and whole egg mayo. I threw in the usual tomato, lettuce, and Tasty cheese and ended up with a good sandwich but not up to the standards of my childhood. Maybe next time I'll see what the butcher can slice up?