Demystifying the Tomahawk Steak – bringing the Caveman and Cavewoman into the modern era

The world of social media is an interesting place. If you told me that I would be a regular on Instagram when I started this blog, I would have thought you were insane! Fast forward over a year and a half, here I am, posting daily, engaging with followers, and finding inspiration in the digital world out there.

Creativity really has no boundaries.

What I find mind boggling about this world are the human connections that can take place over the sharing of a simple photograph. A like, a comment, and a simple exchange of encouraging words make this an extremely engaging platform, and one where you can let your imagination run wild and free. It’s the perfect online haven for you to share what you find meaningful, whether it’s a talent, a passion, a product, or a tiny piece of your life.

It was through Instagram that I met the people behind Les Gastronomes, a start-up online meat supplier based in Dubai (this is not a sponsored post). Michel, the owner, reached out after spotting my account and invited me to select any cuts I found inspiring.

The first thing that struck me was their black angus Tomahawk steak. Big, bold, and on a bone that’s the size of my arm (I’m not kidding), this epic piece of meat is a force to be reckoned with, and a culinary challenge worth taking on. I found it a little imposing at first, but in all honesty, it’s relatively simple to prepare if you follow a few basic rules. All you need is some coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a hot grill (or griddle pan), and you’re set for a carnivorous feast.

Massive Tomahawk steak

Trust me, you’ll never look at steak the same way again.

I served this baby with a white bean and roasted garlic purée, and a side of slow cooked baby onions. Add some roasted potatoes, along with whatever greens you fancy, and get ready to wow your guests, and seriously impress yourself in the process.

Cutting through a Tomahawk steak

Bon appétit!

Grilled Black Onyx Tomahawk steak with white bean and roasted garlic purée

Serves 4, or 2 very hungry cavemen/cavewomen

Ingredients for the Tomahawk:

  • One 1.4 kg to 1.6 kg Tomahawk – rib-eye steak on the bone
  • Coarse sea salt, enough to cover both sides of the meat (Maldon is always my favourite)
  • Cracked black pepper – place a small handful of peppercorns in a small plastic bag and give it a few whacks until the pepper is aromatic and breaks into coarse pieces

Directions:

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1.5 to 2 hours prior to cooking in order to bring it to room temperature. (Note – If your Tomahawk comes frozen, you’ll need to thaw it in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before you want to cook it)

Preheat grill or griddle pan over medium high heat.

Season both sides of the meat generously with salt and pepper, gently patting it on the flesh so it sticks to each side

Place the Tomahawk on the grill, and let it cook, undisturbed, for five minutes. You can close the grill, but you will need to monitor the meat so it does not flame up (keep the grill at medium to medium high heat).

tomahawk on the gril step 1

After five minutes, rotate the meat 45 degrees, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes longer, until the meat is beautifully grilled on the exterior (you want that characteristic grill mark pattern on the meat if possible).

Carefully lift the meat, as it is getting soft off the bone, and repeat on the other side for a total of 9 to 10 minutes.

tomahawk on the grill step 2

Note that the timings I’m giving you will result in a rare Tomahawk with a seared and crusted exterior. Add approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side if you would like a medium rare steak. I won’t go beyond a medium rare. Below is an internal temperature guide for your reference (you will need a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature).

meat internal temperature guide.png

Let the meat rest for 8 to 10 minutes to seal in the juices (cutting into it prematurely can result in dry meat).

how to grill a tomahawk steak

Ingredients for the white bean and roasted garlic purée:

  • 1 head garlic – bulb intact, with the top ¼ inch removed to expose the raw garlic
  • 400 grams of cooked white cannellini beans (you can use the equivalent in canned)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (taste to see if you need more)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)

Wrap the garlic bulb in foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the garlic is cooked through and reaches a consistency that’s as soft as butter.

 

Release the garlic from its bulb by gently squeezing through its bottom (the garlic will ooze out of each clove like toothpaste from a tube).

With a hand blender, purée the white beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, chicken stock, and salt. Blend until smooth and silky. Give it a quick taste and add more salt if needed.

 

grilled tomahawk steak with white bean mash

To serve: Carve into the meat, serve with the white bean purée, and savor every single juicy bite!

Carving a Tomahawk steak

grilled tomahawk with white bean puree and baby onions in wine

red wine

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Chef Spotlight: In the Kitchen with The Experience by Reif Othman

I’m often at a loss for words when I meet a great chef. They are the artists, the pioneers, and the visionaries that roam the culinary world with a constant thirst to learn, inspire, and create. At the risk of sounding too poetic, great food is more than just taste, it’s an emotion all on its own.

I had the privilege of watching chef Reif Othman glide through his kitchen with the cool-headed confidence of a culinary James Bond – he is suave, charming, and effortless. I did this twice, once as a guest at The Experience, and once as an active participant in his kitchen. On both occasions, it was an honor to say the least, and watching him transition from gracious host to king of his kitchen with ease and fluidity is an impressive sight.

Born and raised in Singapore, Reif developed his “mediterrasian” culinary style while working in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, London, and Lyon. His six-year stint as Zuma’s executive chef catapulted him into the leagues of the finest chefs in the region, and one could easily argue, worldwide. In fact, it was during Reif’s chef training for Zuma, which took place in a loft-style apartment in New York City, that would leave a big impression on him and is what planted the seed for what would eventually become The Experience.

Located on the 37th floor of the H Hotel with breathtaking views of Old Dubai, The Experience was born out of Reif’s desire to build a test kitchen in an empty space one floor above Play Restaurant & Lounge, where he currently resides as executive chef.

views of old dubai

Since the space was too big to build just a kitchen, Reif decided to take his concept a step further and create an apartment where guests can relax in an intimate setting – all while being wined and dined by the man himself! “Basically, this is like my apartment, my own villa. You feel cozy, you feel at home – it’s a chef’s dream! I have great investors and partners who give me the freedom to do what I love. I want to take this concept to the next level.”

As soon as you step off the lift, you enter the living room. There’s a full length mirror, coffee tables, and couches where you can sit and enjoy an aperitif – just like you would at a friend’s house – it is all very private and personal.

lidija's Kitchen mirror shot at the experience

When the doors open to the main dining area, the real fun begins and twelve lucky guests are seated at a large, u-shaped table facing Reif’s open kitchen “playground.”

The experience roland mouret full restaurant

lidija at the experience in the kitchen

All personal touches have been curated by the chef himself. From wallpaper and curtains from France, to locally sourced furniture pieces, fine cutlery and porcelain from Spain, with some pieces handcrafted especially for Reif in Japan. If his mission is to make you feel at home and comfortable, then it’s mission accomplished.

Dinner includes ten courses and can go up to a jaw-dropping twenty-five. “From the eighth course, I will say ‘are you ok, or do you want to go on?’” says the chef with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes. “You can do twelve, you can do fourteen, you can do sixteen. It’s up to you.”

lidija and reif candid.jpg

Rarely repeating the same dish at the Experience, Reif creates dishes that are based on what he feels and can tailor them to individual needs. “I don’t prep,” He says “I have my basic stocks. If you come in and say ‘I’m allergic to seafood,’ then I will create anything without seafood. That’s it.”

He sets the bar even higher with plans to open an Imax theater in a room at the back of the restaurant at the end of March 2017 – and we’re not talking reruns either. Reif’s Imax will be directly linked to Vox Cinemas, which means diners can watch movies that are new in theaters. “Whatever is new in the cinema will be linked to my Imax. Finish off your ten-course meal and you move to a movie. You’ll have homemade popcorn, cotton candy, you can even have your wine in there.”

On when he started cooking, he says, “I was 16. I think I got it from my mom. She used to have a small little store back home in Singapore, so I would help her with that. Even during my younger days, I’m the only one who would follow her to the market. All the moms would be with their daughters, and I would be the only boy!”

“So it’s in your blood?” I say to which he replies “A little bit.”

A mesmerizing journey was about to begin…

the experience full view shot

seaweed butter

Once inside Reif’s kitchen, I start my apprenticeship by making an amuse-bouche of caviar and Reif’s “secret” mousse. This isn’t just any caviar – made by Sturia, France’s leading caviar producer – these little black jewels are especially made for him.

sturia caviar

“With Reif caviar,” he says, “they clean the line, and pick the eggs. Anything irregular they put it aside.” He gave me the rundown on how the optimal maturation time for his caviar is 6 weeks to balance out the salt ratio. He is proud when he tells me about how his caviar contains a ratio of only 1.5% instead of the usual 3% found in most other varieties, and proceeded to tell me the conditions in which the sturgeon live. A milky pond, with freedom to swim freely in un-crowded conditions is what the fish need to thrive. Judging from the fine quality of the caviar, it is clear that Sturia raises happy sturgeon.

We piped the bottom of a little round box with the cream-coloured mousse. When I asked Reif what was in it, he shrugged his shoulders “I don’t know” he teased, “it wouldn’t be nice to tell you what’s in there!” With a tool that looked like a giant tweezer, we added caviar, followed by grated Sudachi zest (Japanese lime), and little pearls of crispy, puffed sushi rice.

It was almost too pretty to eat! Reif closed the lid of the box before ushering me to my seat in the dining room – it was time to taste. When my spoon slid onto the caviar through the silky puree, I knew that something special was about to hit my lips. I was right – it was unlike anything I had ever tried. When I guessed the secret ingredient (cauliflower, shhh, don’t tell anyone), Reif gave me a high five before his assistant topped up my champagne. We were off to a great start!

perspective caviar shot

the experience lable by reif othman

lidija amuse bouche at the table

Next on Reif’s agenda was Tuna belly tartare (otoro) prepared in two different ways. In the first, tuna was delicately scraped with the back of the spoon and served on deep fried nori.

closeup of totoro

closeup of tuna on wasabi cracker

reif and lidija making tuna candid shot

The second was the same tuna belly, this time diced into fine cubes, and tossed with wasabi mayo. Served on what looked like a simple crispy rice cracker, was actually cooked sushi rice that was blitzed with squid ink, and dried before being fried until crisp. When I asked Reif if he could make me the same thing tomorrow, he replied with a smile “You wouldn’t have anything you had today – except for the caviar!”

two types of tuna tartare at the experience

When it was time for our third course, thinly sliced, scored, and cured Japanese snapper was laid out onto a plate and cascaded with a broth of Umeboshi (Japanese sour plum) and fish stock.  Reif was keen on educating me about the snapper we were using and pulled out a book on Japanese fish.

A touch of Mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), crispy kale and spring onion oil finished the dish. Reif says it’s simple. I say it’s meticulous, crafted, and perfect.

cooking with reif othman at the experience

cured red snapper

Paper-thin Japanese Wagyu Sirloin was served over broth infused noodles, and topped Myoga – young Japanese ginger.

It was at this point I noticed that our dishes were transitioning from light to slightly heavier. Note to self, next time wear yoga pants. Reif pulled out a fresh Yuzu and held it up to my nose – powerful and insanely aromatic! I thought he plucked it off the tree in the living room entrance. “Nah”, he laughed, “that tree isn’t real! It’s just for show!”

yuxu pic

A man after my own heart, he grated fresh black truffle over the dish, then added hot beef consommé to “cook” the meat. While the liquid gushed over the dish, an amazing scent permeated the air. It was more divine than it sounds.

grating truffle

broth on noodles

lidija eating noodles

“I don’t boil with water, I only use vegetable stocks,” says Reif, while preparing course number five. “Water is very dull and flat. Even at Play, we always have a pot of boiling vegetable stock just for our pastas.” Plunging an individual “ravioli” into the hot liquid, I asked him what was stuffed inside the pasta. He gave me his ‘you’ll-have-to-wait-and-see’ look that I was growing accustomed to.

The lone ravioli was laid on a sauce made out of fresh cream, milk, and parmesan. It turned out that I had to eat it in one bite – no chewing allowed! Reif was clear with his instructions “Say Hakaaa! And eat the whole thing at once.” What happened next was somewhat of a revelation as the ravioli exploded in my mouth, oozing with a burst of liquid truffle-infused butter. It was rich, decadent, and as unexpected as the rest of my day. I’m completely convinced that Reif goes to sleep dreaming of what to cook and how to surprise his guests.

secret ravioli truffle and cream sauce

lidija eating secret ravioli

Just when I thought it was time for dessert, Reif pulled out grade ‘A’ Wagyu sirloin strips in preparation for his rendition of a classic Korean bibimbap. The sirloin strips – marinated with apple and soy sauce – were lightly seared unilaterally in a hot, cast iron skillet lined with Wagyu fat.

wagu sirloin searing

A pot dressed with sesame oil was filled with Japanese rice, and topped with soy dressing and vegetable-infused bok choy. Homemade Kimchi, our quick-seared Wagyu strips, and the ultimate runny egg (slowly cooked to perfection in a sous-vide) crowned our dish.

babimbap at the experience

Reif led me to the table to taste. I watched him break through the soft cooked egg yolk while it slithered throughout the dish, meticulously tossing all ingredients together. This was comfort food redefined!

As I was polishing off the last of my Bibimbap, Reif popped out of the kitchen with a box of lush-red strawberries. “From Japan!” He proclaimed. They tasted as good as they looked – even the packaging was perfect! It was time for dessert.

Plated on what looked like a porcelain log, nearly each component of the dessert had an element of strawberry to it. A strawberry filled vanilla sphere coated with white chocolate sat atop raspberry pop rock (bringing back childhood memories). Strawberry Swiss rolls made out of sponge cake, strawberry jam, and white chocolate soil, scattered across the plate. A brilliant finale to a spectacular meal!

talking with reif

closeup dessert

The Experience certainly does live up to its name and much much more! Thank you, Reif, for giving me a glimpse into your kitchen – you are the ultimate host and a force to be reckoned with. Here’s to more Hakaaa’s soon!

Double-O-seven would be proud!

lidija's kitchen with Reif Othman at the experience

lidija's Kitchen Reif Othman Experience pic 2

reif othman at the experience

LIDIJA_EXPERIENCE_SPOTLIGHT_EXTRA

Shot on location at the Experience in the H Hotel, Dubai

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography

Dress by Roland Mouret

Jewelry by Nadine Kanso for Bilarabi

Hair by Mustafa at Polished Salon

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