All steakhouses, by their nature, are indulgent species. Niku Steakhouse, though, is a breed apart: a particularly hedonistic hybrid that seems very much a creature of today’s IPO-fueled San Francisco. Its menu offers a selection of pedigreed domestic proteins, served in hulking sizes. These include a Kurobuta pork chop and a tomahawk steak of Nebraskan wagyu that costs $200 and is meant for two, though it could likely satisfy a pride of lions.
But enough about the low-end stuff. Niku’s brand is built more squarely on the most rarefied of red meats, meaning actual Kobe and other prized varieties of Japanese wagyu. Wagyu translates literally as “Japanese cow,” and it’s not to be confused with less prestigious breeds that are often crossed with wagyu, then sold under the same prestigious label. Pure wagyu, such as Kobe, is so thoroughly and uniformly marbled that it yields like softened butter. Trying to grind and sear it would be silly, as you’d be left with little more than beefy goop.
We’re not talking sports-bar fodder here. Honest- to-goodness wagyu is the bovine version of bluefin tuna belly: astoundingly tender and mind-bendingly delicious, but also so scarce and expensive that it’s best enjoyed without thinking too hard about the broader implications of eating it.
As the latest venture from the hard-charging Omakase Restaurant Group, Niku does its best to get you in the proper mood. The decor carries traces of an old-school loosen-your-belt-notch steakhouse, with dark wood walls and leather chairs, while the clean lines and cool music that greet you at the bar and follow you to the dining room make it clear you’ll be digging in, millennial-style..
You can order the full menu anywhere you sit, but the place to be is the chef’s counter, which wraps around an open cooking area that’s anchored by a binchotan-fired grill—its embers glowing like the flames of Mordor. 61 Division St., San Francisco, 415.829.7817
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco
Photography by: Photo Courtesy of Niku