The katsu sando with an expensive twist has been a conversation point for almost five years, since Japan’s wagyu master Kentaro Nakahara began serving it as an off-menu special to regulars at the now-defunct Sumibiyaki Shichirin. It is not clear who was the first to do it, but Nakahara made it Instagrammable, and thus popular worldwide.
Katsu is an abbreviation for katsuretsu, or cutlet in Japanese, while sando is a charming shorthand for sandwich. Pork is typically used for the cutlet, which is breaded and deep-fried before being cushioned between two crust-free, pillowy slices of white bread.
My initial reaction to substituting pork with wagyu was of disbelief. As a steak purist, it seemed sacrilegious to the prized animal, whose meat provided us with this luxury, to casually pop something so beautiful into a deep fryer. Meanwhile, a customer’s request for steak to be served any more done than medium is known to send some chefs stalking indignantly out of their kitchens for a confrontation. So how then, from Tokyo to London to New York, has wagyu katsu sando proliferated on menus?
At Beast in Batai, Damansara, the katsu sando warrants its own section on the new spring-themed menu. I am leaning towards a wagyu steak (RM120 upwards per 100g) but the waiter praises the Japanese A3 wagyu tenderloin katsu sando (RM250 for 180g) to the skies, and I decide to take his word for it.
The main event chosen, the buffering courses are then considered. I opt for the homemade sourdough bread with truffle butter (RM16) to start, and request a side of charred vegetables (RM22) in an effort to mitigate the night’s sins. The waiter disappears and I scan the interiors — I am the sole diner here on a public holiday evening, though the raging thunderstorm outside dissuades driving out for anything less than an emergency.
If you have ever noticed the footnote at the bottom of every Options’ food review, you might be aware that we always go incognito and pay our own way. But while you cannot put a price on integrity, there is certainly one on our dining budget and this menu, unfortunately, did not allow for a partner at this review; the most affordable main course is a half-portion of roast truffle chicken with Brussels sprouts, priced at RM90.
This cavern for carnivores opened at Intermark KL in 2013, and three years later joined two of Benjamin Yong’s other babies in Batai, Damansara: BIG supermarket and Ben’s General Food Store. Beast sits above the supermarket.
As you ascend the stairs, its name is spelt out in lights. The restaurant, a neutral canvas of gray and cream, occupies half of the space on the right, while the lounge on the left complements the adjacent bar, Beauty.
The comforting aroma of warm yeast precedes the sourdough, a whole small loaf set atop uncooked grains and backed by wheat ears. I spread truffle butter liberally across the planes and savour the melding of earthy butter on fermented dough, crusty on top and supple beneath.
Next, the charred vegetables is a green medley of beans, baby zucchinis and bite-sized Brussels sprouts. While delightfully fresh and textured, it could do with a dash of salt.
Expectations are high for the katsu sando, and its presentation on a solid wooden serving block is unpretentious. After the fanfare of sourdough, this seems anticlimactic but it draws the eyes to the generous portions of the quartered cutlet sandwich.
Although it had met the fryer, the thick slabs of meat, battered in breadcrumbs and tempura, are pleasingly pink in the middle and tender from judicious resting. While there is an option for wagyu patty (RM120), this offers a more gratifying chew, heady bites of soft white bread, crunchy batter and pliant tenderloin. It is flavourful enough, as are the accompanying fries, to not require jazzing up with the ancillary katsu sauce or mustard, though the latter has a well-balanced, assertive kick. If dining in a group, this is ideal for sharing and gets a gold star for value — in London, it could easily set you back about £100.
Full but intrigued to try more, I return to the grazing column on the menu for a last savoury bite before dessert. And a bite it is, as a single piece of bafun uni toast with shoyu ikura and seaweed (RM50) is set before me. I could make quick work of this in a mouthful but extend it to three, the better to marvel at how well Beast, for all its meaty inclinations, handles bread. The crispness of the toast is the perfect spine for the lavish sea urchin, although the roe is not as flavourful as expected.
Dessert (RM30 each for the handful of options) goes by in a daze, a juxtaposition of chocolate of varying intensities and expressions named Chocolate Poetry. I am distracted, reliving the savouries in my mind.
Perhaps the only damper on the evening is the service, which could have been more attentive. While one young waiter was especially intuitive, even providing a couple of magazines to keep me company as I dined by my lonesome self, another forgets my request for the menu and I find myself waiting for a waiter to appear on a number of occasions. Though minor, these niggling incidents are felt all the more so considering that I am the only person in the restaurant, save for a couple who dined and left while I was midway through my meal.
Service can easily be improved, but a poor menu is hard to defend. Thankfully, at Beast, there are no such concerns. The memory of the katsu sando, in particular, lingers long after the evening ended.
This article first appeared on May 27, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.