The most expensive and fetishized beef in the world is about to come to Canada for the first time. Antonio Park is the first and only chef in the country to secure a license (see below) to import and serve Japanese Kobe beef. Monthly shipments of the upmarket Wagyu begin this month, via wholesale food distributor True World Food. "We will have access to a cow per month," reported True World spokesperson Miyuki Lajeunesse. "Park is the first restaurant in Canada with this permit [from the Kobe beef council]." The exclusive license also covers Park's parrilla restaurant Lavanderia (which, conveniently, uses Japanese binchō-tan charcoal).
"Park is the first restaurant in Canada with this permit."
"I've been hard at work on this for years," said an elated Park. "This was all about the challenge. The challenge to be the first in Montreal and Canada with access to genuine Kobe beef. We won't make a profit. The beef will be priced to break even. It's not about money — it's about serving the best quality ingredients we can get our hands on." Park has plans for the luxe beef beyond traditional methods like shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. "I want to experiment and use every part of it. It's very delicate but we'll use some parts for charcuterie and use the bones for broth."
Few extravagances are as misunderstood as Kobe beef. The protein's prevalence is a fallacy — it is uncommonly rare and subject to hyper-strict controls. Most beef advertised as Kobe is Wagyu from Australia, the United States or, in some cases, parts of Japan outside of Kobe. What it is not is beef from Tajima Wagyu cattle, bred in Japan's Hyogo Prefecture. In a 2012 article Forbes contributor Larry Olmsted wrote that you "cannot buy Japanese Kobe beef in [the United States]."
"Not in stores, not by mail, and certainly not in restaurants. No matter how much you have spent, how fancy a steakhouse you went to, or which of the many celebrity chefs who regularly feature 'Kobe beef' on their menus you believed, you were duped. I’m really sorry to have to be the one telling you this, but no matter how much you would like to believe you have tasted it, if it wasn’t in Asia you almost certainly have never had Japan’s famous Kobe beef."
A subsequent article in the Toronto Star declared, "If you’re eating it in Canada, it’s not Kobe beef." Import bans have relaxed in the three years since Olmsted's exposé, which is how the likes of the Wynn Las Vegas resort can now serve it. In a follow-up in 2014, Olmsted cautioned "that the vast majority of what is advertised as Kobe beef continues to be counterfeit, and it remains very difficult for consumers to tell the difference—at least until they taste it." Now diners who can afford it have the opportunity to try it in Canada for the first time at Montreal's Park and Lavanderia. "They won't grant another restaurant in the country a license," Park proudly predicted. "We locked it down for Canada."