The Best Steak in the World?
Having lived in Scotland for much of my life, I am no stranger to great beef. Scotland still produces some of the finest meat and the strains of cattle first bred in this country have provided the
genetic backbone for beef industries in many other famous beef producing countries.
It's because of this that my claim that the best steak in the world is to be found in Spain is somewhat controversial. I first came across the pleasure of the Chuleton de Buey (ox steak) many years ago in a brilliant asador/sideria in Vitoria - a town in the heart of the Basque region. Inventive tapas bar at the front and outstanding restaurant at the back, Restaurante Sagartoki serves up what was the best meat I have ever tasted. The meat comes from the ox and is dry aged for lengthy periods to ensure maximum flavour. Cooked over charcoal and served simply with plenty of salt, the Chuleton at Sagartoki is a brilliant combination of smoky, crusty, caramelised outer with a centre of purple, marbled meat with rich, grassy, nutty and faintly cheesy aromas coming from the extensive fat. I thought it could not be bettered...
But a few years ago I began to hear about a restaurant near Leon entirely devoted to the meat of the ox. A little out of the way of many of my wine trips, it took a while before we could create an itinerary where a visit to Bodega El Capricho was possible. Last week, we finally went made it and the extraordinary anticipation was not misplaced.
José Gordon's restaurant has been there for three generations but it was José who provided the determination to make Capricho a world class destination restaurant.
We started off with Cecina, air dried ox leg, thinly carved in the style of Jamon Iberico. Now, I love my Jamon Iberico de Bellota like few others but I was astounded by the quality and depth of
flavour of this cecina. Superb.
The beasts that provide the meat are no ordinary cattle. José Gordon travels throughout Spain to find mature, working ox bulls which he can bring back to his farm near the tiny village of Jimenez de Gamuz, where his restaurant is based. There, after a long hard life, they are tended with great care and respect, before being sacrificed under the watchful eye of Señor Gordon.
The meat is then aged for up to 90 days before being served to the lucky diners. The raw meat looks extraordinary - huge quantities of fat surround the gigantic cuts and the meat itself has marbling far in excess of the finest wagyu. Once cooked, the meat is intense, very soft, still well marbled, intensely juicy and imbued with a depth and complexity of flavour I have not experienced before.
We were lucky in that the night we visited, the restaurant was quiet and José himself was on hand to not only choose the piece of meat we were to enjoy, but also to share a glass of wine and then, brilliantly, to show us the cool room where all the meat is aged. These are massive beasts, up to 1600kg when alive, and the size of the half carcasses was staggering. The sweet smell of grass and nutty butter was almost overwhelming.
Capricho is an inspiring, brilliant place that deserves to be on the must-dine list of everyone who not only loves meat, but who cares about the respect and welfare of animals.
Bodega El Capricho © 2014 · Paraje de la Vega S/N · Jiménez de Jamuz · León · España · 24767 · tel. +34 987664224 · +34 987664227 · firstname.lastname@example.org