The world's best steak has landed in Sydney. We repeat: The. World's. Best. Some of it, anyway.
The beef under the spotlight? Jack's Creek striploin, cut from beasts reared in Willow Tree in northern New South Wales, and finished in Warwick in Queensland's south-east. The steak was voted the best of 70 entries from around the world in the inaugural World Steak Challenge held in London last year, and Sydney's Firedoor is currently the only restaurant in the country serving it.
Firedoor has had the award-winning steak since September last year, but chef Lennox Hastie has been wet-ageing his allocation until now (that's 176 days-plus) and waiting for the perfect moment to serve it. "It has softened and mellowed really nicely," he says. "We tried it twice along the way and decided it would really benefit from a bit more time. It's developed a slight gaminess, too, which makes it a bit more interesting." A taste of the world's best at Firedoor will set you back $96 for a 180-gram portion, and there's only 27 of them left in total.
Jack's Creek began breeding wagyu-cross bulls in 1991: 75 per cent pure Tajima, 25 per cent Angus cattle. The bulls spent their first 350 days on wheat-based feed, plus another 100 days on corn-based feed. "It's very much like the Japanese-style wagyu," says Hastie. "A small portion goes a very long way."
Hastie fires grapevine shoots at 1600C in Firedoor's wood oven to make the coals that he uses to cook the steak. It's served unadorned, finished with nothing more than a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The meat is incredibly rich, buttery even, and doesn't show any of the blue-cheese notes you'd see in some more extensively dry-aged meats. Instead, it's beautifully caramelised outside, and the fat is superbly sweet (it ranks a nine-plus on the marble score, the highest level of visible fat).
Firedoor already has two very impressive steaks on the menu, which some pundits rank among the nation's best. Is the Jack's Creek a serious improvement? Perhaps not. The O'Connor grass-fed beef (dry-aged for more than 150 days) is beefier and punchier, but just as juicy; and Hastie's "unicorn", the Rangers Valley Black Market beef, which is dry-aged for more than 200 days, is also remarkable in its own way.
Hastie himself isn't waving the world's-best-steak title around too vigorously. "There are always going to be huge opinions flying around when it comes to titles like that," says Hastie. "It's a bit like Noma Australia. It's a complete one-off, and then it's gone. People will ask whether or not it was worth it, and as a one-off experience never to be repeated again? Well then, yes, absolutely. This is a piece of meat that's been two years in the making… and that's just the finishing off process."