Steakcraft: The Makings of Circo's Super-Premium Ribeye
Steak Fact SheetCut: Ribeye
Grade: "Beyond Prime"
Breed: "Pure Japanese breed"
Dry Aged? 28 Days
Pre-Cooked Weight: 32 oz.
Price: $156 for two, comes with choice of two sides
Average Price per Ounce: $2.43
"We are a Tuscan restaurant and we want to give our customer that particular experience," says Marco Maccioni of Circo, the playful offshoot restaurant of famed French classic Le Cirque. But he goes on to explain that the essence of Italian cooking is about getting the best ingredients and respecting their purity. This often means importing directly from Italy—truffles, olive oil and cheese being the most obvious examples. But not always, and of course you can't fly in fresher vegetables than you can get locally. And both Maccioni and Circo's executive chef Alfio Longo concur, separately sating that "you need to listen to your customers."
When Circo opened nearly two decades ago, Maccioni imported Chianina beef from Italy and served it as a classic "Bistecca alla Fiorentina." But Circo's customers, accustomed to younger, grain-finished domestic breeds like Black Angus didn't fully appreciate the beef. So Circo adapted by serving dry aged USDA Prime beef instead, a practice that was maintained until just recently.
The beef changed again when Le Circue and Circo were approached by Dennis Sirianni and Mark Rakauskas of 7X Beef, a boutique purveyor of a very special breed of cattle. For legal reasons, 7X does not name the breed of cattle they produce other than saying that it's a "100% pure Japanese breed" that is pasture-raised on an all natural diet in Colorado. Images from the 7X website show cattle with distinctive red coats; you are free to draw your own conclusions about their provenance.
In any case, both Longo and Maccioni were sold from the first bite of the samples they received. Indeed, Maccioni's eyes light up when he talks about the beef: "I am always on the look out for better ingredients and this is really special beef." It is now sold at both restaurants.
Chef Longo serves a 7X 32 oz. ribeye for two that is aged for 28 days in-house. He is so enamored with the beef's pure flavor that he seasons it with "just a touch" of salt and pepper and lubricates it with olive oil before searing it over lava rocks and finishing with smoked Maldon salt that echoes the grilling process. The steak is sliced tableside and served along with two sides plated for the guest. Longo marvels at the meat's tenderness as his knife reveals delicate, rose-colored ribbons through the interior.
Take a look through the slideshow to see how chef Longo prepares the steak, and circle back next week when we visit Le Cirque's steaks.
About the author: Nick Solares is a NYC-based food writer and photographer. He has published Beef Aficionado since 2007, with the stated purpose of exploring American exceptionalism through the consumption of hamburgers and steak. He has written over 350 restaurant reviews for Serious Eats since 2008 and served as the creative director for the award-winning iPad app Pat LaFrieda's Big App for Meat. You can follow him on Instagram (@nicksolares) and Twitter (@beefaficionado).