Samui Wining & Dining
MBS 9+

The Wagyu experience at Chaweng’s ‘The Library’.

 

9It all depends on where you come from. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about hotels, universities, car repairs or beef, the rating-system can sometimes get confusing. Is a European 5-star hotel the same as its American counterpart with 5-diamonds? And where do the ‘7-star’ hotels come into this? Or take beef. Can Americas top ‘Prime’ grade beef be compared with the best meat in Europe or Japan? What about grain-fed beef from New Zealand? And, whilst we’re on the subject, does the actual cut matter or, indeed, how it’s cooked?

 

Most folks on Samui tend to play it safe and go for what they are already familiar with. But there are a select few places, just two or three perhaps, where they are lovingly cooking and presenting what is universally considered to be the best beef in the world – the Japanese Wagyu. And one of them is The Page restaurant at The Library; one of Samui’s trendiest resorts in the middle of Chaweng Beach Road.

 

Every city or town has its ‘individuals’; those establishments which stand out from the crowd. And The Library immediately took its place towards the top of Samui’s list when it first opened its doors in 2007. Variously described as ‘uncluttered’, ‘post modern’ or simply ‘minimalist’, there’s just no substitute for experiencing for yourself the quiet, crisp geometry of the architecture or the serenity of the plain surfaces and the big green lawns. But what it denies itself in the form of complicated aesthetics it more than makes up for elsewhere, especially when it comes to quality. The studios and suites are lavishly fitted and equipped. The spacious library itself – yes it has an actual library – is an essay in wrap-around plate glass with white walls, matching shelving and seats, and even white computers. ‘The Fit’ is another cube of glass, housing gleaming ultra-modern electronic gym equipment. The infinity pool is a surprising bright red hue. And the restaurant, simply entitled The Page, is stunningly, subtly, simple in style and serves some of the finest cuisine anywhere on Samui.

 

Their star attraction is currently the, and I quote, ‘Tenderloin of Wagyu Beef MBS 9+’ and subtitled, ‘served with red wine sauce, cream mushroom sauce and pepper corn sauce and complemented with vegetables, salad and Parmesan cheese’. To call it a ‘promotion’ almost demeans what is one of the island’s most magnificent meals: it’s utterly sublime. But to fully appreciate exactly what it’s all about, firstly a few words about Wagyu beef.

 

And that means going back to where we started! To put things into a context, consider this: in Japan, beef is rated on a scale of 1-10 (the Wagyu at The Page comes in at 9+). As a comparison, the finest American ‘Prime’ grade of beef rates between 3 and 4. But this is oversimplifying things for the sake of effect, although it effectively makes the point!

 

What makes Wagyu so highly-rated is the way in which the fat is present in the meat. Some meat, veal for example, has no fat at all. Many cuts of prime beef have the fatty layer between the muscle-layers (inter-muscular fat). But the Wagyu cattle have been selectively inter-bred over the years to contain the fat actually woven into the muscle layer itself (intra-muscular fat) giving the flesh a characteristic marbled appearance (hence the MBS ‘Marbling Scale’ rating). This is highly desirable for two reasons. The first is that this type of fat has a healthy ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat; it’s high in monounsaturated fat, which actually reduces cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, some parts of the world are now demanding totally fat-free meat, the USA and Australia in particular, making Wagyu an expensive connoisseur item in those regions. But, fortunately, not here!

 

And the second reason that Wagyu’s so desirable is precisely because the fat is in the form of tiny veins throughout the meat. This means it melts during cooking, resulting in a more moist and tender steak and giving it a silky texture with a rich buttery flavour that’s quite distinctive and unlike most conventional types of beef. Indeed, it really needs care in the way it’s cooked and should be either pan-seared or presented in the form of tartar. Traditional cooking methods, such as frying or grilling, are too vigorous for Wagyu and destroy the delicate balance of its flavour and texture. At The Page, they’ve got it just right. It’s rapidly turned and pan-seared for the shortest time possible.

 

And it’s so tender that you really don’t even need to use a knife: it’s so moist and succulent that you can readily dissect it using just a fork – you could take out your dentures and still get through it! Additionally, the actual cut itself is one of the choicest around. Forget the rib-eye or the strip or even the fillet. This is a prime cut of Wagyu tenderloin. And that makes it the tenderest cut of the tenderest beef in the world!

 

I realise it’s a cliché but it’s hard to avoid taking about the dining experience at The Page, as it really is more than the sum of its parts. For a start you won’t see any cutlery: it’s cunningly all arranged in the traditional order but in a dinky little drawer in front of you, set into the table’s edge. And the meal doesn’t come set on a plate but on an intriguing hardwood slab. The presentation is as equally stunning as everything else here, simple, thoughtful and endearingly bold. The perfectly-blanched vegetables come in their own little ‘goldfish bowl’ on the board next to the three squadrons of sauce that seem to be presenting arms (spoons, actually) to the regiment of golden potatoes standing to attention nearby. Words can’t properly convey what all of this feels like, never mind just how scrumptiously delicious it tastes.

 

Eating the world’s best beef is certainly a gastronomic experience. Especially so when you do so at a special place. A place such as The Page.

 

Rob De Wet

 


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