May 03, 2014 London UK Europe

Chowzter's Steak Symposium at Flat Iron, London
Non-smokers friendly

The next event on the list was the steak symposium scheduled to take place at Flat Iron, a restaurant in one of the streets perpendicular to Oxford Street. This two story restaurant welcomes you in its small, cozy space in one of London’s old buildings where you will be transported back in time by the brick walls, squeaking wood floor and metallic lights.

If you’re a fan of steak, then Flat Iron will be right up your street – Beak Street to be exact, in Soho. Tucked away in a tiny 3-level venue, Flat Iron Steak strip down the steakhouse stereotype and tinge it with a laid back vibe – so much so, you’ll forget you’re bang in the middle of town. Here, the decor is warehouse-like with plenty of exposed brick and steel – the kind of interiors you might see in Shoreditch, for example. However, the feel of the place is somewhat different; almost reminiscent of a 1920s back-alley eatery. Square tables that can host six each, are surrounded by individual chairs without back support, a kind of scout camp style to fit in more people. On the small upper floor, we were 30 people sharing the space. I liked the concept of this place, where the menu is hanged on the wall. A menu that contains one single item, yes one and that is the flat iron steak for £10 served with house salad and the of one of five sides and four sauces. We didn’t have those, but hopefully I’ll come back for a review next time I'm in town.


The Chowzter Steak Symposium was about to start: On every table were set a butcher’s knife, a fork and the steak symposium scorecard on which we would rate each steak on its characteristics, 1 being our favorite and 6 the least. Initial tenderness, sustained tenderness, initial juiciness, sustained juiciness, initial flavor intensity, sustained flavor intensity, complexity, length of finish and overall score. Beer started flowing and water pitchers and popcorn arrived while we got to know each other more and share our world food experiences. I had Freedom, an award-winning, handcrafted English lager brimming with flavor. A nice pale golden straw color, it smelt creamy, milky, and of light hops and tastes like sweet corn with light floral touches. An equilibrium of taste and bitterness made of this beer the best I've had to date in this country. Until now, all were strong and too bitter. A red wine bottle landed on our table, Cuvée M, Grand Malbec 2013, Pays D'Oc. Filling it in normal water glasses was a bit intriguing. It’s a steak house after all and they don't have wine glasses? Bizarre to say the least. In wine glasses or not, this wine is a fine one; aromatic and light, with an interesting structure and an intense palate.


Mark Schatzker, the man behind Steak, an award-winning book, took the floor. He introduced his book, the concept of meat and how it should be appreciated and how it can be graded like wines. Mark Schatzker lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Laura McLeod, and their three young children. He writes a weekly column for the Globe and Mail which is often called "satire" even though it isn't always so and is a frequent contributor to Condé Nast Traveler, as well as numerous other publications. Mark grew up in Toronto and attended the University of Toronto, where he did a specialist in philosophy. Steak is his first book and he calls it, "One man's search for the world's tastiest piece of beef. It was a nice presentation highlighting the mistakes we make while choosing a piece of meat, focusing on some things and forgetting others:

  • A nice marbled meat is nice to look at, but should not be taken as a first judgment.
  • Dry aging: most of the tenderizing happens in the first 10 days so we don't have to dry age it too much.
  • Flavor in beef comes from the cow’s diet and age and each is different
  • Taking your time to elevate a beef gives it its flavor

Air-dried beef marinated in balsamic vinegar, sea salt and wine was served in a metallic cup that toured around the table. It was a dry beef with a strong meat taste and all the aromatic flavors of the marinade trapped inside. The aftertaste of saltiness was so nice. Three wood boards landed in the middle of the table and on each were two kinds of meat, chopped up. Slices waited to be devoured. With full concentration, we started picking, cutting, eating, writing and noting in a complete silence. 1- New Zealand Grass Fed Wagyu: (Score 24/36) The first one had an intense red color, without the blood spilling around and, most importantly, a fine external grilling of a brownish color that's catchy. The first thing felt was the grilling taste followed by the saltiness of the seasoning. That piece of meat was slightly chewy for me with slight areas of unpleasant crunchiness. The wagyu was one of the hardest to cut with your teeth as I decided not to use any knives and feel each slice. Juicy and flavorsome, the first impression of the tasting was exciting.

2- USDA Prime: (20/36) The second piece had one of the most beautiful colors around and a was a thicker cut. The same intense red color and cut in thinner slices. Soft and tender, the grilling taste erupts as you start, the saltiness follows, before the rich inner flavors caress your taste buds and activate all your senses. I enjoyed the juiciness of this piece of meat that was close to perfect.
3- Australian Barley OZ Black Angus: (34/36) This third steak was a drier meat. The grilling taste was less pronounced with a taste of blood that's not too kind. Inside were fat layers that could be clearly seen. This steak was also slightly less tender than the USDA Prime. I can say its one of my least favorite on the board. I'm not sure that blood taste enters into the category of meat richness.
4- McKie, Scottish Highland, Grass Fed (31/36): The McKie was one of my least favorites if they wanted to serve numbers 3 and 4 together, both not too great. The McKie was not very tender, with a dry feel and not too many flavors. An unpleasant fatty crunchiness created a bad after taste.
5- Highland Island from Yorkshire (19/36): One of the softer tonight, it could have won that night. A very soft meat and full of flavors and aromas. Less red than the others, juicy and not any fat felt. Mmm. I simply loved it and the length of finish is so nice, not enjoyable for long, especially with a sip of red wine.
6- Grade A5, Wagyu, Japan (15/36): The final steak was the juiciest of all, and surely the one with the most flavors due to its intense fat, but not necessarily my favorite. A very juicy and very flavorsome piece of meat that surely cannot be prepared medium rare. A thin slice, cut in cubes and enjoyed with moderation. I'll say it’s my second favorite.
These were my grades, the lowest being the best. Discussing the results at the tables, we agreed that 5 was one of the best, 4 followed - I was the only one who considered 6 as a great piece- and 1 had a synthetic feel. Bizarrely I noticed that each board had a different feel. 1 and 2 were good, but commercial and the meat is the kind we can have every day. 3-4 were the ones I liked the least and 5-6 were the best on all levels. Now it was up to the judge to decide.

It was time to reveal the results of the blind tasting. The best of all was number 5, the Highland steak as for the second it was number 6, the Japanese imported wagyu. I was happy to know that those were my choices as well, it made me consider developing my steak reviews and tastings.

The winning steak was a Highland bred beef, over 30 months old, fed apple and grains, and beer finished with beer from Farmer Charles Ashbridge

Chowzter's world best steak houses revealed:

  • Entrana @ Don Julio: Buenos Aires
  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina @ Antica Ostertag Nandone: Florence
  • Greenfields Bone in Rib Eye @ The local grill: Johannesburg
  • Dexter Rib Eye @ Flat Iron Steak House: London
  • Cotes de Boeuf @ Maison  d'Aubrac: Paris
  • Double large spencer @ Jackos: Santa Maria
  • Tasmanian Wagyu @ Waku Ghin: Singapore
  • Ribeye @ Faviken: Sweden
  • Wagyu beef @ dons de la nature: Tokyo
  • Chuleton @ Asador Etxebarri: Bilbao (the winner)

A long afternoon, the tasting took more than three hours, in which we ate, drank and enjoyed our time. I personally learned a lot and most importantly had the chance to taste some fine cuts of meat rarely found in Lebanon.

Categories: News Reviews





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