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Butter-Aging: The Newest Trend in Steaks Hits Saigon

I won’t be able to eat another steak for at least two months; not until the taste of Level 23 Signature restaurant’s tenderloin fades from my memory.

Simply put, nothing else will compare. Obscenely tender and indulgent, its secret lies in a revolutionary new preparation method: butter-aging.

While people often assume “fresh is best” when it comes to food, premier cuts of beef actually benefit from aging. Mindfully storing the meat for a period of time allows enzymes to break down muscle fibers, which makes for a much more tender steak. Two traditional methods exist for aging: wet and dry.

Wet-aging, the most common practice, involves vacuum-sealing the meat in a bag to retain moisture. Producers and retailers prefer this style because it only takes a few days to age. The retained moisture, however, obscures some of the steak’s rich taste and adds a metallic element, while not allowing the meat to soften to its full potential. The alternative, dry-aging requires cuts to be placed uncovered in a refrigerator for several weeks. As water evaporates and the meat breaks down, the strong flavors intensify, but in addition to the costs associated with storage, dry-aging mandates the edges of the meat be cut and discarded because they have become too dry, and thus the final price paid by a consumer increases.

Butter-aging, however, is a new alternative. After a couple of days in the refrigerator, a cut of beef is completely surrounded by sunshine-bright unsalted butter. Encased in the dairy shell, it matures for four weeks in the cool darkness. During this time, some of the butter’s succulent flavor slips in, while chemical reactions slowly soften the flesh. And unlike typical dry-aging, the edges are not affected, so costs are more reasonable because none of the meat needs to be thrown away.

Lorraine Sinclair, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers’s Director of Culinary, first learned about butter-aging from a food blog last year. She was eager to try the method after noting she hadn’t seen it used anywhere in Saigon. After experimenting with and perfecting the process, she placed it at the center of Level 23 Signature restaurant’s new menu.

Sinclair says that every ingredient used at the restaurant must be of the highest quality, and therefore she only uses imported French butter. When removed from the steak, the chef melts the butter in a pan and continually drizzles it over the sizzling meat to add extra decadence that harkens back the days when people were less conscious of cholesterol or calories. A dash of rosemary and sprinkling of salt and pepper add a subtle nuance to the meat, which is first pan-fried, then placed in an oven, and finally briefly put on a grill.

While tomahawk ribeye, porterhouse and sirloin are all trendy cuts of beef, Sinclair selected tenderloin for its flavor and a leanness that helps contrast the richness of the butter it is served with. America, in particular, is famous for the filet, which is taken from along the ribs and backbone. Therefore, the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers imports top cuts from the U.S for exclusive use in the kitchen. With a grilled garlic bulb placed atop, the steak arrives at diners’ tables accompanied by a pepper sauce and a dish of melted butter. The former adds a slight tang when drizzled over the meat, while the later allows diners to double down on the meal’s opulence. Perhaps most delicious, however, is eating the steak without sauce so the meat’s character comes across completely. The chefs will cook it anywhere from rare to medium stressing any more does a disservice to the experience. Sinclair recommends accompanying the meal with a glass of Shiraz, as the wine’s acidity cuts through the butter’s richness.

The introduction of the butter-aged tenderloin coincides with a revamp of the luxury hotel’s dining room. People in Saigon are increasingly looking to eat out on regular days, not simply for special occasions. Similarly, younger people are interested in expanding their dining routines. Observing these trends, The Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers has redesigned Level 23 Signature restaurant’s menu. Rather than heavy European fair, the menu is now filled with reasonably portioned, modern Western-style grill offerings accompanied by an expanded collection of gin.

Alterations to the restaurant’s atmosphere accompany the more casual menu. Light and trendy music now flirts in the background while new, unassuming dinnerware and tablecloths match comfortable staff attire. Verdant plants add a touch of nature, while black and white photos of iconic Saigon scenes line the walls. The elements combine to allow visitors an opportunity to relax and focus on the food, their company and tremendous views of the city. As the sun sets, the Bitexco Financial Tower shimmers, and the traffic-frenzied streets below seem like an entirely different world.

Since butter-aged beef went viral online, steak lovers around the world have been eager to try this new dish. As of now, Level 23 Signature restaurant is the only venue serving it in the city. While foodies should seek it out on its own merit, being able to enjoy the succulent dish in such a laidback and welcoming environment with a stellar view makes the experience all the more special. 

 

Level 23 Signature restaurant

+84 28 38272828

Operating hours: Open daily, 6:00pm. – 10:00pm.

Level 23, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers - 88 Dong Khoi Street, D.1

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