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Texas Monthly Review

Feature Article: The Best Steakhouses in Texas

Here’s a riddle for you: How much would you pay for a priceless experience?

Would you fork over ten thousand dollars? A million? Your immortal soul? My friends, you’re in luck because today priceless experiences start at a mere $95. So put your money where your mouth is, order an Akaushi steak at Bohanan’s and prepare for an epiphany.

Texas Monthly Steakhouse Review - Prime Steak
All right, it may be naughty to apply a religious notion to a steak, but you’ll think “Holy cow!” when you sink your teeth into the most ambrosial hunk of beef you’ve ever tasted. How  ambrosial is that? If a regular USDA Prime Steak is a Lexus, Akaushi is a Lamborghini. If a Certified Angus steak is Beethoven’s Fifth, Akaushi is his “Ode to Joy.” In short, magnificent. (If you’re salivating to know more about these Texas-raised cows, see “How Now Brown Cow”on page 158.)

But now, a word or two about Bohanan’s, one of only a handful of restaurants in the state that have the smarts and the nerve to offer this treat every day and not just by special request. When Chef Mark Bohanan made his lifelong dream a reality five years ago, the restaurant didn’t immediately catch on. It seemed, frankly, a tad fussy and dated, even though it was brand-new. But time passed and the place matured , and it has now evolved into something quintessential old San Antonio: a steakhouse with a country club air. The tables are set with creamy linens, waiters wear suits and ties, and wine bottles rest like rare books on fine wooden cabinets. If Henry James had been a Texan, he would have set part of The Wings of the Dove here. (Hell, Henry James could have eaten here and felt perfectly at home.)

Interestingly, while the demeanor of Bohanan’s is traditional, its kitchen is as modern as many of the “new steakhouses’,” like Wolfgang Puck’s Cut. Yes, typical dishes are offered, like a wedge salad and a fabulous vodka-laced flaming cheese fondue, for those customers who lack the gene for experimentation. But the kitchen’s heart is obviously in cutting-edge creations like a starter of green figs stuffed with blue cheese and sided by slices of Asian Pear or a gorgeous seasonal salad of cubed watermelon topped by feta and drizzled with fifteen-year-old balsamic vinegar. (The only improvement would be a dressing that is less in-your-face.)

Texas Monthly Best Steakhouse Review
Though the Akaushi is clearly the star, it doesn’t push the regular steaks off the stage. All the cuts on the menu (including a chateaubriand for two) are USDA Prime, and they come out precisely cooked. If a purist had any complaint, it might be that they are briefly marinated in a sauce that seems to involve soy (the recipes a secret). If you prefer a simple sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind of black pepper, just ask.

Though Bohanan’s has garnered a slew of well-deserved awards for its fancy service and refined menu, that doesn’t mean it has forgotten its Texas roots. Down at the bottom of the lunch menu you will find chicken-fried steak and gourmet Frito Pie. Oh, and the amuse-bouche is candied jalapeño slices with whipped cream cheese made from a recipe supplied by Bohanan’s mom. Of such small touches are images made. 219 E. Houston, Second Floor; 210-472-2600 or bohanans.com. Lunch Mon - Fri  11 - 2. Dinner  Mon- Thur  5 - 10, Fri & Sat  5 - 11, Sun 5 - 9.

HOW NOW BROWN COW

A little over a year ago I started receiving annoying press-releases on some kind of unpronounceable Texas-raised cattle called Akaushi. Say what? The stuff was ex-pen-sive, and you had to order it days in advance, even in restaurants. It sounded like a bunch of hype, I thought of the old joke about he difference between ignorance and apathy: I didn't know and I didn’t care. Fast forward to September of this year. Two friends and I walked into Bohanan’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, in San Antonio, and the head waiter started raving about Akaushi beef. Damn. The cheapest cut was $95, for a 12-ounce filet. Deciding to take one for the team, I ordered it. It arrived. I took a bite. Ohmigod. It was so delicious I almost fainted. My friends noticed and tried to sneak pieces off my plate while I was semi-conscious. We were fork-fighting and groaning and carrying on like spotted hyenas. It was that good. If Akaushi (“Ah-ka-oo-shee”) sounds like what’s called Wagyu, source of notably succulent Japanese beef, it’s because they’re kissing cousins. Actually, “Wagyu” is a general term meaning “Japanese Beef.”  The correct name for those famous fatties is Kuroushi – “kuro” meaning “black” and “ushi” meaning “cattle.” (In case you’re wondering, Kobe beef is Kuroushi raised near Kobe, Japan.) Akaushi means “red cattle,” though they are really reddish-brown. In 1994 eleven lone Akaushi were imported by HeartBrand Beef to its south Texas ranch outside Yoakum. From that small pool, they’ve increased to 5,000 and are the only breeding herd outside Japan.

If you were to compare Kuroushi with Akaushi, you’d detect little difference. They’re both fabulous. But some Kuroushi in Texas have been crossed with Black Angus, and that meat is generally of a lesser quality. By contrast, all Akaushi are purebred, so they always produce splendidly tender meat with loads of near-microscopically fine fat marbling. On top of this, beef from both Kuroushi and Akaushi is better for you than regular old American beef, because the meat has lots of mono-saturated (good) fatty acids. But don’t take my word. Try some yourself if you can spare about a hundred bucks. That’s not much for a memory you’ll never forget.

by Patricia Sharpe
Texas Monthly
December 2007


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