Kelly Bishop wants to know if Wagyu really is the dogs
In the world of restaurant reviewing there are certain unwritten editorial rules. At Confidentials, it is frowned upon to describe anything as basic as ‘delicious’ or ‘to die for’.
My editor also generally advises against ordering steak. "Pictures of steak are not that interesting, on average" she vociferates. But rules are made to be broken. Regarding the menu at vast new halal steakhouse, Ribeye, it would have been rude not to.
The marbling of our own flesh went up a grade that evening
They offer three types of beef: Aberdeen Angus, Creekstone from the US, and Wagyu which, at £65 for a 200g fillet, is the most expensive choice. But is it worth it?
Not knowing much about Wagyu except for the name, I did some research beforehand. ‘Wa Gyu’ translates as simply ‘Japanese beef’. Although there are certified farms in Britain now, Ribeye’s meat comes from Japan where halal Wagyu is a growing market. Myths about massaging the cows with sake, or feeding them beer are quirks of the occasional eccentric farmer but not prerequisites.
No beer or sake either for diners at Ribeye. As a halal restaurant, the bar is dry. A plus side being their excellent range of soft drinks. A ‘First Street’ (£5) from the extensive menu of mocktails is like a virtuous amaretto sour.
The Wagyu process is reminiscent of foie gras in the way that the cows are fed a rich diet to give their flesh the multiple layers of marbling required to achieve that famous ‘melt in the mouth’ quality.
There is a grading system - the complexities of which were too much for my frazzled brain. My grasp of ‘Wagyu For Dummies’ is that A to C relates to yield and 1-5 to quality, with A5 being the highest possible score. Ribeye’s steak is described as ‘minimum grade 5’ which seems odd, since this is the maximum. There is no mention of the ABCs.
Enough about the numbers, what we want to know is, does it taste good? Having enjoyed a Hereford steak in deepest Clitheroe the week before for about two-thirds of the price, I was underwhelmed to be honest.
I ordered medium, rather than medium-rare, to please my slightly squeamish dining partner; it was juicy but did not ‘cut like butter’ as the fanfare proclaims.
A sawing motion with the steak knife had to be employed.
Maybe I'd built it up too much by watching evangelical YouTube videos about Wagyu in bed the night before.
A side dish of gratin dauphinoise (£3.50) was ok, the addition of mozzarella uncalled for. ‘Wilted spinach’ (£3.50) came drenched in cream, garlic and chilli, not usually a bad thing, but overbearing alongside a piece of meat that should have been allowed to sing more loudly than anything else on the plate. Unnecessary competition too for the béarnaise sauce and creamy potatoes. The marbling of our own flesh went up a grade that evening.
But Ribeye don’t just do steak. Cod en papillotte (£13) arrived in a plastic bag that might have been gift wrapped by Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually. All I could think was that soon, all fish will arrive ready in plastic - if the crisis affecting our seas is anything to go by.
As the wrapper was whisked away I asked pathetically if it could be recycled. "No, it will go in the bin," came the inevitable reply. Maybe this dampened my appetite, but the fish was dull and chewy, a buttery tangle of shredded veg being its saving grace.
A lemon tart (£6), while prettily presented with one of those edible flowers that seem to adorn every plate, left me sceptical of the existence of the promised ‘in-house pastry chef’.
The pastry case was too perfect to be hand-made, the filling a decent lemon curd, and the promise of ‘soft lemon meringue’ just a swirl of stiff, sweetened whipped cream.
On reflection, the mixed platter we started with, which I had described as ‘TGI Fridays in a tuxedo’ turned out to be our highlight; its most memorable components being the dynamite prawns and some fall-off-the-bone barbecued ribs.
On a Thursday evening, the place became busy with well dressed folk seeking a sense of occasion. There certainly is an air of sophistication: high ceilings, marble and bespoke honeycomb wallpaper, waiting staff in brown leather aprons.
But the open kitchen fills the place with smoke which, by the end of the evening, made my eyes sting. For me, it was all leather jacket and no boxers.
More old-fashioned flashiness was reflected in the attitude of the head waiter. When I asked him for the bill, he handed it to my older, male dining partner. On his return, I presented him with my card and he gawped like the gift-wrapped cod. "What’s your secret?" he leaned in to ask my dining partner. "She’s my daughter," my dad replied. Awkward.
You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife - no sawing motion necessary.
First Street is an area that is definitely on the up, with some really good existing bars and restaurants ad more on the way. Ribeye has a sense of occasion and class but, for the price, the food doesn't quite match the high-end vibe they are going for.
Ribeye Steakhouse, Unit 1A, Number 8 First St, Manchester M15 4FN
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Platter 7 (Ribs 8 Wings 7 Halloumi 7 Arancini 7 Prawns 8), Steak 7, Spinach 7, Dauphinoise 6, Cod 6, Lemon tart 5
Attentive but old fashioned
Smoke and mirrors get in your eyes