This week, restaurateur Derek Feldman and chef Samuel Clonts (both of Bar Uchū fame) soft launched Don Wagyu, Manhattan’s first restaurant dedicated exclusively to serving wagyu katsu “sandos,” the Japanese sandwich sensation featuring battered and fried wagyu beef placed between pillowy, crustless white bread.
Clonts serves an A5 Miyazaki (A5 signifies the highest quality of wagyu beef) katsu sandwich on his 10- to 12-course $255 tasting menu at one-Michelin-starred Bar Uchū, but the meat is grilled rather than battered and fried (katsu style) as it is at Don Wagyu.
The sandwiches at Don Wagyu are priced at $28, $80 and $180, and each served with a side of salt-and-nori skinny fries and housemade pickles. The sandwiches vary by meat: the first, “Washyugu,” is a cross between Black Angus and Tajima wagyu; the second, “A5 Miyazaki wagyu,” is also wagyu meat but from Japan’s wagyu-apex, the Miyazaki Prefecture; the third, “A5 Ozaki,” is from a Japanese family farm scouted by Feldman which delivers only five cattle to the U.S. each month, all to Don Wagyu.
In recent years, chefs around the world have taken this prime beef, prized for its particularly rich flavor and distinctive marbling, into sandwich form. Tokyo chefs like Yasuhiro Inoue (of Wagyumafia) and Kentaro Nakahara, and restaurants Kawamura, Takazawa Bar, Shima (which received praise on David Chang’s Instagram), Yoroniku and Yakinikujambo all serve versions of a wagyu katsu sandwich or its close cousin the wagyu sando (the same except the beef is not breaded and fried). From the Japanese context, katsu sandos date back as far as 1935, most often featuring fried pork cutlets or shrimp rather than the newer “gourmet” and internationalized version which features wagyu beef.
In the United States, wagyu katsu sandwiches appear sparingly on menus. At the Michelin-recognized gastro pub SakaMai in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, six-ounce A5 Miyazaki wagyu katsu sandos are served for $85, but the chef, Takanori Akiyama, makes only five daily. During the month of February, the Japanese café Hi-Collar in the East Village served two-ounce wagyu katsu sandwiches at $28 each. In Los Angeles, Daniel Som of West Hollywood’s Kura runs a pop-up called Katsu Sando, inspired by his afterwork beef sandwich snack at Japanese grocery stories while employed at Tokyo’s Michelin three-starred restaurant RyuGin.
At Don Wagyu, the beef is aged in-house, breaded and deep-fried, preserving its pink, juicy insides, and served on Hokkaido-style milk bread (which has been toasted over binchotan, a white Japanese charcoal that generates exceptional heat with virtually no flames or smoke). For executive chef, Feldman and Clonts chose Corwin Kave, the former chef of Ducked Up at Ludlow House.
On its opening day yesterday, Don Wagyu sold 150 sandwiches, comprised mostly of large orders from companies in the Wall Street area (the store is located a five minute walk from the New York Stock Exchange). The black storefront at Don Wagyu has a bull with horns on it; the 1,000-square-foot interior is outfitted with a scant set of red leather stools and aims to function primarily on take-out orders. The beef aging room is nearly the same size as the restaurant, and holds about 3,000 pounds of meat.
Don Wagyu plans to accommodate up to 200 sandwich orders per day.
Don Wagyu is located at 28 S. William Street in New York, and is open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.
Photos by Daniel Krieger.