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Years of work culminate in Calgary Waygu beef experience like none other

This October, diners will get to take part in one of the ultimate Waygu beef experiences on par with any restaurant worldwide.

Modern Steak’s Modern Waygu is the culmination of years of work by owner Stephen Deere and Executive Chef Tony Pittoello, who have worked to source in-all-respects, the world’s finest Waygu beef.

Nearly five years ago, Modern Steak began the process to become licensed to purchase Waygu beef—obtaining some of the world’s finest from Miyazaki, then from Kagoshima Prefecture which won the 2022 Waygu Olympics, and then finally beef with its legendary reputation as the world’s best beef.

“It starts out with a dream… then the thing goes crazy. It takes off and we can see that there’s an absolute mega demand for the specialty beef and the specialty experience. That’s what we’ve been trying to do,” said Deere.

“Tony came up with the idea and said, ‘this Waygu is going f***ing bananas, why don’t we do a Waygu pop up and focus on doing like tasting menus with it.’ And I was like, ‘this is a genius idea.’ We get to showcase all the way through from around the world. Canadian, Australian, American, and then different styles of Japanese.”

Unrivaled selection of international and Japanese Waygus

Chef Pitoello and Deere created a pair of five and eight-course tasting menus that feature Samurai Canadian Waygu from Ontario, Black Opal Australian Waygu from Victoria, Snake River Farms Waygu from Idaho, Takamori Drunken Waygu from Kumamoto Prefecture, Kagoshima Waygu from Kagoshima Prefecture, and Miyazaki Waygu from Miyazaki Prefecture—and as an optional upgrade due to the limits of supply from Japan, Kobe beef from the Kobe Prefecture.

The pair have also chosen to focus on presenting the beef using a variety of different techniques to elevate the culinary experience and to allow patrons to get the full effect of beef that is succulently tender and rich in delicious marbled fat.

Both tasting menus start with beef tartare, with options depending on the five or eight courses, to be followed by beef carpaccio, hot pot, Osso style short rib, beef cheek ravioli, rib cap, and beef Wellington. For dessert, a Japanese cheesecake featuring the flavours of yuzu and blackberry.

“I want people to be able to compare the beef from each course but not as a direct comparison,” said Pittoello.

“I want people obviously to enjoy their evening, but I want them to think a little bit about how the menu has actually been put together best for them.”

Experience crafted around the qualities of the beef

The philosophy behind that has everything to do with the beef itself. Waygu from Japan is graded in both the quality of the marbling, the firmness of the meat, and the yield with A5 from Japan representing the finest of marbling and firmness scores combined with a top yield from the beef.

That quality of fat which delivers the unparalleled flavour and texture of Waygu beef, also means that it melts at room temperature. Even more so in the mouth.

“If we fed you the A5 right off the top, your mouth is going to be very heavily coated. You’re going to need a palate cleanser every single course,” said Deere.

“We’ll start out with the lighter style Waygu moving into the really opulent well-marbled. Into the Kagoshima and Miyazaki. People are in for a treat of like all the different things that they’re going to be able to taste.”

That profession, said Chef Pitoello, is essential to the experience to avoid palate fatigue.

“It’s not an up and down back and forth line. It’s very much that up towards the pinnacle,” he said.

“You have to have that progression, or else you’re not going to taste anything… it’s the same way we treat our fillet trio on the menu. We always recommend that they try them in order so that they don’t get covered up by the tastes of the next strongest one.”

Terroir for wine and Waygu

Terroir, more commonly used to describe the sense of place that infuses the flavour of wine, equally applies to beef of this quality said Deere.

“People are going to be able to see really the terroir of beef, why this beef tastes like this because it’s from here, getting produced this way,” he said.

“When I look at our Australian producer the water that in Australia is a little bit hard, the grasses a little bit different. They feed grain but not as much barley for example. That beef tastes different; it has more of a minerality. It’s like rich because of the fact quality, but it also has more sanguineous iron components to it.”

The wine-tasting menu to go with the Waygu experience was equally selected to pair with the beef. With options to start with either a 2020 Pierre Sparr Grand Reserve Riesling (France), or a 2022 Lagar de Cervera Albariño (Spain) moving to the final course pairing of 2020 Maison Chanzy or a 2020 Chateau Chaimery Domaine Ferte Givry.

Modern Steak has also been experimenting with creating some signature cocktails for the evening, including the possibility of a fat-washed bourbon old-fashioned.

Fat washing intermingles the fat from beef with bourbon or whisky, and then removes the fat from the mixture but allows it to retain the complex flavour molecules from the beef.

“We’ve seen in the history of the world that people have done fat-washed cocktails, and we’ve seen a handful places in the world do A5, but I’ve never seen a Kobe fat-wash cocktail,” said Deere.

“It’s giving people something like ‘here’s some cool curated cocktails, here’s the curated menu.’ Everything is specific.”

The Modern Waygu experience, said Deere, is being held on the second floor of Modern Steak with a different atmosphere than a traditional dining seating.

“We’re probably going to for the most part only do 40 seats a night. This is not meant to be mass, it is meant for enjoyment. There’s no rush. It’s white tablecloth and our best servers,” he said.

Experience extends beyond diners

Chef Pittoello said that to be able to work on food at this level, and in this quantity—respective of the limited amounts made available by producers—was a privilege.

He said that at first working with cuts as expensive as the ones they have procured for all of the Waygu experiences the restaurant has put on was terrifying.

“Don’t mess this up, that’s lots of money. But once you kind of get past that and you just see it for what it is, you do see the enormous privilege that you have to be able to work with a product like that,” Pittoello said.

“I know chefs who have gone their whole career who don’t get to touch this stuff, and for us to have four or five different types of it is pretty special, in my opinion.”

Deere said that he was enormously proud to be an owner who is able to bring Waygu to his customers.

“We’ve got a good education over the last kind of year and a half of dealing with this product. And now we feel like the opportunity is right. The city feels good,” he said.

“I love seeing our people, how proud they are that we have this product they get to cook it. And then the experience from the guests is like, their minds are blown every time we serve it. It’s like every time.”

Modern Waygu menus start at $149 for five courses, $249 for eight. Standard wine pairings start at $42 for five courses, $75 for eight, and premium pairings start at $100 for five and $155 for eight.

The dining experience runs from Oct. 6 through 28 and can be booked at modernsteak.ca.