There are some days when you really just need a damn good steak; one whose outer shell is brandished with the perfect hopscotch grill marks, an earthy-colored inner trimming, and a center as plump and pink as a strawberry’s flesh. Good steak doesn’t come cheap. Great steak, even more. In the tree of life that is Manila’s restaurant arena, a hunk of meat that levels out equally in terms of condition and price points is slung far up on the high branch. It makes you wonder if the price you pay is actually worth the meat you eat.
New to the group behind Lulu + Hooch comes Smith Butcher and Grill Room (147 Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati; 09273759467; smithbutcherandgrillroom.com), a place that puts prime cuts of meat at the vanguard. Somehow, though, Smith isn’t just another steak house. It’s a restaurant slowly establishing its devotion to the craft of butchery, making use of parts like the cheek, tongue, tail, regular primal cuts, and even sub-primal cuts that not everyone knows about. Chef Tom Hines has elaborated that diners in the city have shown a more serious regard for food. When once the Filipino palate was conditioned to liking just grain-fed American beef—for the simple reason that this was the common import—meat eaters are suddenly yearning for something beyond US grade (not to say that a Prime Angus is a bad thing, because it still really is an excellent choice).
Smith has stepped in as the place that bridges carnivorous yearning with quality and superior steaks. “There are trends happening with butchery,” Hines goes, “Especially with steaks! Aging is a big thing right now globally and no one is doing it here in the Philippines. So we decided to bring the best from what we know.”
The grill house quite literally brings in bits of the world to your plate, with a selection of beef that ranges from French Charolais filet mignon to drastically fat Matsusaka from Japan. Hines has found himself so consumed with delivering exceptional cuts that he has obsessed over each and every detail. “I’ve spoken to the farmers and their representatives and I’ve given them a list of my guidelines. There are no antibiotics or hormones used on them. There is a certain percentage grass fed and grain fed. I know how they exercise their cows and how much water they drink. It’s a lot of details that goes into determining the quality of the meat! I intentionally work with smaller farms who rear their own cattle because they have better quality control.”
Boarded up by floor-to-ceiling glass panels, the restaurant’s crowning glory is its aging room. The transparent vault holds gold in the form of meat—some vacuum-sealed, some on the sous-vide machine, and others displayed on pedestals for viewing. This is possibly the Smith’s utmost devotion to the craft of butchery. It’s an art they take so seriously that, when days call for it, this place exceeds the expectations of that damn good steak you’ve been looking for.