European lobster roll When we made the switch from the cheaper American lobster to the better quality European lobster back in June 2016, the difference in the cost to us was 25% (more). Despite this, we only increased $3 on the lobster roll, barely enough to cover for the higher cost. In fact, we made $0.50 less for every European lobster roll we sold.
Unfortunately, over the past 4 months, the prices of European lobster continue to increase with every shipment… our most recent shipment arrived at 20% more than what we paid for when we first started. Throughout this period, we did not increase prices to cover for the much higher cost.
With that, I have 2 options… either increase our prices to cover for the higher cost or switch back to the cheaper and less tasty American lobster. As the prices for American lobster roll range from $45-$58 in good restaurants, I have decided to continue with the European lobster and price it at $42 to cover the higher cost. This will not be permanent; since the prices for European lobster will continue to rise and eventually, we will need to switch back to the American lobster. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
Basic burger Our basic burger (BB.1) was launched in December 2015. Since then, we have made numerous improvements (potato bun, double cheese, gherkins, etc.) and most importantly, increased the patty size (from 130g to 170g) and quality (grass-fed Angus neck, Aomori ribeye and Toriyama Wagyu tenderloin).
Again, we kept our price at $15 (burger only) for BB.7 (current version) despite the much higher cost. Starting in November, we will adjust the price for our standalone burger to $18, just enough to lower the cost to us, to 38%, which is still higher than most restaurants’.
What is the real taste of beef… the pure flavour that is unadulterated by crossbreeding and modern science? This question brought me to Mark Schatzker’s “Steak - One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef” (This book is a must read for steak lovers).
From his book, I came to acquaint myself with the “A-plus” steak of Highland cattle, which took me on a personal quest for one of the oldest heritage cattle breeds in the world. That journey brought me to Melbourne in March 2016 where I met Paul (owner/farmer) and came face-to-face with the Highland cattle for the first time, after more than 1.5 hours' drive from the city.
Paul, who is a certified cattle vet of Scottish descent, explained to me that Highlands have never been mass produced in the world and did not undergo years of rigorous selective breeding to promote fast growth and rapid fattening, unlike commercial breeds such as Angus and Wagyu. This has kept the Highlands pure and closest in genetics to the ancient Aurochs that predate all modern cattle.
As the Highlands in Paul’s farm are free-range, hormone-free and grass-fed exclusively, they do take a much longer time (than most commercial cattle) to mature. Highlands are typically grown out to a minimum of 30 months as it produces a more intense beef flavour and colour.
Conventional wisdom equates tenderness with younger animals and marbling (fat), so matured animals with lower fat content should make Highland beef tougher. Then why is Highland beef tender? The answer is in the muscle types. Basically slow-twitch muscles contain fat and have smaller and finer fibres than fast-twitch (muscles that grow quickly) muscles.
Based on a study by Charles Bruce at the University of Glasgow, Highland beef is 23% more tender, 7% more protein, 17% more iron and 4% less cholesterol compared to commercial beef, making Highland beef a healthier choice.
After more than 4 months of work, we finally imported our first shipment of Highland beef of a single steer (from cheeks to tail). The secondary cuts were all minced and made into 170g-size patties for our new burger, affectionately named BB.8 (version 8 of our basic burger). We have also created a new blue cheese sauce to go with it and dropped the lettuce and tomato along the way.
We believe that BB.8 is the first burger made exclusively from a single steer of a heritage breed in Singapore. With its hormone-free and grass-fed quality coupled with the higher nutritional value of the Highland beef, BB.8 is simply the best burger we have created so far.
Just like our approach in seafood, we have spent a lot of time in research and experimentation, to finally imported our own steer just to guarantee quality and taste. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. As for the Highland steak… how does it taste? Is it really tender despite the lower fat percentage compared to other beef? To me, it is indeed more tender, leaner and most importantly, flavourful… this is how beef should taste.
Since late 2013, we have been working on beef and it took us till March 2015 to launch our first beef offering, the Hida Wagyu striploin. Along the way, we have tried many top Japanese wagyu and after briefly serving Kobe Beef (Japanese wagyu), we decided on the A4 tenderloin from Toriyama Umami Wagyu.
Then back in late September 2015, we embarked on our burger journey and expanded our search for secondary cuts and non-wagyu. Eventually arriving at grass-fed Angus neck as the base of our patty mix. Toriyama Umami Wagyu was then added to boast the fat content and also to significantly enhance the flavour of the end product, creating a beefy and juicy patty.
Why Toriyama Umami Wagyu? Instead of just focusing on marbling, Toriyama Umami Wagyu (known as Akagi Gyu 赤城牛 in Japan) from Gunma Prefecture, prioritises umami through extended research in genetics/bloodline. With their patented taste analyser machine, they are able to measure umami level. Their Kuroge Wagyu consistently measures the highest umami scores. Tenderloin (Psoas major) was chosen for 2 reasons… it is leaner and more affordable, and for a wagyu steak, it works better for me than the richer ribeye or striploin.
For a lower priced steak (compared to wagyu), we decided on the ribeye (Longissimus dorsi) of Aomori Rice Beef from Mizujiri farm in Aomori Prefecture. This tender and juicy ribeye steak is from a hormone-free, Holstein Friesians steer of just 20 months. Fed with fermented, high-moisture stored whole rice crop during the last 10 months, it produces oleic acid, which improves the flavour of the beef (think umami).
Unlike what you usually see in supermarkets, ribeye and tenderloin don’t come in “steak” form for restaurants. Chefs will need to trim and portion the meats and “trimmings” can make up between 35-50% of the entire weight. Effectively, you are actually paying for the weight of your steak plus those “trimmings” that you will not get on your plate.
That has always troubled me… firstly, it is a waste (of food) and I just couldn’t wrap my head around with charging customers for it. But from a business perspective, we have to charge since it is actual cost. Although we did move the leaner trimmings and cost to staff meals, it is still not enough to bring down the cost significantly.
But with the introduction of Aomori Rice Beef at Nekkid (Block 41), we are able to use those trimmings (approx. 45-48% of the entire ribeye) and blend it with grass-fed Angus neck and Toriyama Umami Wagyu to make our version BB.7 patty. In doing so, we can reduce the selling price of our steaks and at the same time, cut down wastage. Perfect! As for the Toriyama Umami Wagyu, we can now lower our 150g tenderloin steak from $85++ to $78++, which will make it one of the lowest priced Japanese wagyu A4 steak in town.
Between the 2 lobsters from the genus Homarus, my personal preference has always been Homarus gammarus, the European lobster (commonly known as Brittany lobster or blue lobster). It is sweeter and more tender than the American lobster (Homarus americanus) and I love the gorgeous deep blue shell too. We did attempt to use European lobster for our lobster roll back in July 2014 but I feel that the delicate sweetness is drowned out by the mayo. So crème fraîche was introduced; it worked, but we decided to drop it as the price difference between American and European lobster was simply too significant (more than 50%).
As widely publicised, the more affordable American lobster is not that cheap anymore either. With prices expected to rise and closing the gap on the typically higher priced European lobster, we have decided to switch the lobster meat in our lobster roll from American to European this Saturday, 18 June 2016 (This is seasonal and we will revert back to American lobster when the European lobster’s season ends).
Yes, the cost for the European lobster is still higher, in fact, it costs 25% more than the American lobster. After much deliberation, I have decided to price our European lobster roll at $38++ (for 90g worth of cooked lobster meat), just $3 more from the American lobster roll. Although our dollar value margin is lesser (than the American lobster roll), we hope that you will help us out by maybe adding a dessert or coffee to your lunch.
My advice? Go for the crème fraîche version as the subtle sweetness of the European lobster will shine through.
It's been a year since we moved The Naked Finn from Block 41 to Block 39, and Nekkid took over as a bar with affordable small plates. Our plan was to create a nice neighbourhood bar to augment The Naked Finn for our late night customers.
The feedback we've been getting from our regulars is that, Nekkid should also be a place that one can enjoy a full meal together with our signature -12°C cocktails. So back in December 2015, we launched our Nekkid Burger and introduced our popular lobster roll into the menu.
Starting from 5pm today (9 May 2016), we will launch a new dinner and supper menu at Nekkid with some of the items from our popular lunch menu at The Naked Finn. So expect to get fish soup with somen, pumpkin soup, lobster bisque and yes, the hae mee tng that was part of our successful supper menu when The Naked Finn was still at this shack.
Now, on the personal front… I am BIG on supper. Every night, finding a supper place with good quality food around my neighbourhood is a huge struggle. We don’t get the kind of diversity as those lucky folks living in the east. So as much as this is a business decision, it is very much a personal one too.
So what is Nekkid? To me, it is a place to get an early dinner or drinks (we open at 5pm), basking in the magic hour before heading home to your loved ones. It is also a diner for top quality comfort food in a lovely setting, away from the hustle of the city. And a perfect place in the not-so-western part of Singapore for a satisfying supper after a late day in the office (chefs included) or a movie at VivoCity.
Rest assured that we have made it more comfortable to dine (new dining tables and chairs for the indoors), kept our top 10 signature cocktails and most of our small plates. There will also be 10 labels of wine offered by the glass (we hear you)!
Just like our approach with seafood, we rejected the conventional wisdom and adopted a process of methodical research, identification and experimentation, which has served us well over the past 3 years. Similar to seafood, there are many breeds of cattle to explore and many other variables that will affect the end result: country of origin, husbandry, farming methods, feeds, slaughtering procedures, hanging, cuts and cooking techniques… just to name a few.
For our burger patties, we went straight to the uncommon cuts, as making minced beef out of ribeye, striploin and tenderloin is simply too extravagant. As mentioned in my earlier post (https://www.facebook.com/notes/nekkid/our-burger/447866182086624), selecting the right cut is the first step and our choice is the neck. For us, it is the most flavourful cut with a good amount of fat throughout. By adding Japanese wagyu (A4) to the mix, we were able to improve the “juiciness” and soften the texture of our patties.
Although we have launched our burger last week, we are still constantly refining our patties. Our suppliers are still sourcing for different breeds from different countries for us. Our aim is simple: to make the best tasting quality burger at the lowest possible price. And with a dose of love.
After the runaway success of our lobster roll, my buddy, Richard (Juju), challenged us to make a beef burger equivalent. At that time, I couldn’t find a reason to make a burger as we are very much a seafood restaurant. I guess I was worried that a burger will dilute our identity.
The opening of our new and bigger restaurant in April made me rethink about our positioning. I began to realise that we are not just a seafood restaurant… yes, we are pretty good at it (seafood) but what we do now with fish soup, fish & chips, hae mee tng and lobster roll can be categorised as comfort food, albeit seafood based. Even the cooking style for our dinner menu resonated comfort. Hsueh picked that up instinctively on Friday, 20 November 2015 when she wrote about comfort restaurants in ST Life.
I believe that the popularity of our lobster roll is based on quality (ingredients), consistency (taste) & honesty (90g of cooked lobster meat). With that, we approached our burger with the same mindset.
For the beef, we started off with identifying the flavour and texture of different cuts. Then the country of origin, feeds and ageing come into play. Once the source and cut have been chosen, the technical aspects of mincing, preserving, seasoning and cooking are tested. The final piece is figuring out the ratio between the Japanese wagyu and the grass-fed beef.
Next up, the bun… we went back to the same bakery that make our roll but after numerous unsuccessful attempts, we decided to bake our own bun in-house. Nothing crazy, just a nice fluffy, buttery bun wrapped in a thin layer of toasted crust.
Then, the sauce is made in-house and tweaked repeatedly to achieve the right balance of flavour. No secret about the sauce here, just a simple mixture of our in-house mayo, mustard and ketchup.
The processes and techniques involved in preparation and cooking plus the stack sequence are often treated as secondary but to us, they are equally important to achieving a perfect burger.
After almost 3 months of testing and tasting, we are ready with our basic burger (BB for short). It will be a Nekkid’s exclusive product for now and will be made available from Monday, 7 December 2015 for just $15++. Ken Loon December 2015