You may have noticed that wagyu has been gracing Denver menus left and right, from high-end steaks to Asian fare to simple sandwiches. The trend comes with a good reason: Colorado is home to two major ranches specializing in this Japanese cattle breed — the 7X Ranch in Hotchkiss (owned by the 7X Cattle Company) and the small-production Yarmony Ranch, which took over the herd at the now-defunct Emma Farms.
But what exactly is wagyu, and what makes it such a hot ticket item? Technically the word "wagyu" means "cattle" in Japanese and is not as big a deal in the home country. However, when the Tottori Black Wagyu and Kumamoto Red Wagyu breeds were shipped to America, in 1975, the meat market eventually jumped on the bandwagon. The resulting beef is known for having superior fat marbling, a supple texture and less saturated fat than other varieties. Today most American wagyu is a cross between the original Japanese bovine and local breeds, but is just as tasty and, if scientific studies are to be believed, good for you. With that in mind, we found nine knockout dishes featuring this magnificent meat, from Colorado and beyond, that you can go out and try right now.
3350 Brighton Boulevard
There's tartare and then there's the wagyu tartare served at chef/restaurateur Steven Redzikowski's RiNo hot spot. Made with wagyu beef from Texas, this popular dish gets spruced up with fresh chives, celery, honey mustard, lemon and Grana Padano cheese. Each heaping order comes with a side of housemade lavash with "everything" spices sprinkled on top. Because tartare is served raw, diners can really taste the nuances of the wagyu and appreciate why this beef proves superior to others. Plus, eating tartare (especially when you add a glass of sparkling wine to the deal) makes one feel fancy. Not bad for a $14.50 appetizer.
Wagyu French Dip
1644 Platte Street
If you love a good French dip sandwich, then the option at this LoHi casual eatery is a must-have. After all, the beef that's placed between two halves of a fresh ciabatta roll from Grateful Bread is tender wagyu from 7X Ranch. To help enhance the meat, the sandwich gets a healthy dose of mustard, horseradish aioli and melted Gruyère, all of which go together wonderfully to create one of the best French dips in the city. Give your lunch a dunk in the luscious jus, and consider $14 a bargain for such a distinctive meal.
ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro
Wagyu Chow Fun
1555 Blake Street
Chef/owner Lon Symensma's chow fun is nothing like what you might recall from nights of cheap Chinese food when you were a kid (or an adult with a late-night craving). This dish has been elevated not only with hand-made rice noodles, fresh vegetables and shiitake mushrooms, but the chef adds a hearty helping of oil-poached wagyu from 7X Ranch to the mix. Oil-poaching the wagyu means that before all the other goodies get cooked, the beef's tasty juices get locked inside as it cooks. From there the meat is put to the side so the vegetables can get a turn. Then come the tender noodles, followed by that wagyu. The result is a lovely, $15 Asian dish that's a little sweet, a tad spicy and full of scrumptious umami flavor.
Waygyu Ramen Burger
1629 Bruce Randolph Avenue
There's nothing fancy about this ramen joint's burger, save for the use of wagyu instead of the usual run-of-the-mill beef. Well, that and the fact that the bun is made out of ramen noodles, a trick that gives the dish a buttery, slightly mushy mouthfeel that's all at once strange and texturally addictive. This $10 burger also comes topped with fresh arugula and Kewpie mayo, and is small enough that you'll want to order a side of edamame and maybe even a pair of pork-belly buns to round out your meal.
Edge Restaurant & Bar
Wagyu Bone Marrow Custard
1111 14th Street
Sure, you can order the intense wagyu tomahawk steak or a tantalizing wagyu burger at this downtown hotel restaurant, but if you really want to see the skills of chef Zack Rozanski, order the wagyu bone-marrow custard as a starter. To make this delicate and rich dish, the chef utilizes beef and marrow from 7X Ranch, liquefies it, and then sends it to the pastry team to turn the meat fat into an indulgent pastry cream, minus the sugar. Instead of sweet, it gets a savory blast of fresh thyme and salt. Then the mixture is put back into little bone cups and topped with a dried-apricot compote. Smear this $18 appetizer on a triangle of housemade brioche toast and wallow in each bite.
Keep reading for more great wagyu dishes...