Gozu, the hot new Japanese steak tasting menu spot in SoMa, is having a hell of a year. The restaurant only opened in October before suffering a fire on New Year’s Eve due to faulty construction. The restaurant did a full reno, was set to reopen in April, and had just relaunched online reservations. Then the coronavirus pandemic shut down the city. Now, the restaurant’s reopening has been pushed back indefinitely, and chef Marc Zimmerman, who usually welcomes guests at a dramatic counter surrounding a live-fire grill, is doing something he never could have imagined. He’s cutting world-class wagyu into steaks, boxing it up, and selling it to home cooks.
“Look, this is not a time for anyone to try to make a buck,” says Zimmerman. “We’re just trying to adjust, see what we can do to help, and take care of our staff.” Zimmerman, like many chefs in this city, is having to lay off employees and hoping to cover their health insurance. But a 13- to 15-course tasting menu doesn’t exactly deli up well for takeout and delivery. So the team turned the restaurant into a pop-up butcher shop, which is open for pickup on Wednesdays and Saturdays. At first, they offered chicken breasts, ground beef, eggs, bone broth, and other staples. But Zimmerman happened to have a ten-pound piece of Miyazaki chilling in the walk-in. He cut it into 4-ounce portions, just to see if anyone might want it. Oh yes, the wagyu fans wanted it. In fact, they demanded more. “It’s one of those things,” Zimmerman said. “You can get staples, but wagyu is a treat. And people are still celebrating birthdays and special occasions.”
Gozu is now offering online orders through Tock. Locals can pick up directly from the restaurant, scheduling at 15 minute intervals and choosing from range of options, from a dozen Jidori eggs for $10 or a four-pack of chicken breasts for $24, all the way through four ounces of Miyazaki strip for $65 or Kobe ribeye for $190. For A5 wagyu steak, Zimmerman estimates that’s half the cost diners would pay at a restaurant. Shipping nationally, he’s also doing a big wagyu box for $600, which includes 30 pieces of meat, weighing in at 15 pounds total. That includes a variety of cuts, from skirt and short ribs to ribeye and tenderloin, and pulls from ranches in Japan, Australia, and America. “Overnight shipping is expensive, and we wanted to make sure it felt worth it,” says Zimmerman. “It’s a big family pack that could last a few weeks. It works out to about 20 bucks a steak.”
One of the interesting details about Gozu has always been that the restaurant has its own supply chain direct from Japan. Zimmerman, who was previously the chef at Alexander’s, another prominent wagyu-focused steakhouse, says he spent nine years traveling the world in search of the best steak. Ben Jorgensen, Gozu’s co-owner and investor, also founded A-Five Meat Company, a distribution company. The original goal was to get access to supply their own restaurant, but they also started supplying some other chefs and restaurants, including Avery and Mastro’s in San Francisco, Maum in Palo Alto, and a few others in New York, Southern California, and Miami. Zimmerman’s favorite ranch is Chateau Uenae in Hokkaido, where the animals spend a year on grass and are finished on a proprietary mix of grains, living in a serene barn with thick bedding. It’s unusual that Gozu is able to source whole animals from Japan, and Zimmerman uses everything the USDA will let him, down to the fat and trim.
For home cooks tempted to go for that big meat box, it’s going to be a breathtaking unboxing experience, and the real question might be how to cook those rare restaurant steaks. “You can treat wagyu like regular steak for the most part, but it’s always going to feel a little more rare,” says the chef, who warns, “Don’t overcook it.” For adventurous home cooks who want to fire up the grill, Gozu is offering small packs of mesquite and binchotan charcoal, which is both expensive and normally ordered in bulk. And to rub down that richly marbled steak, the shop also has small packs of shichimi togarashi, the seaweed-sesame-spice blend, and sansho, the citrusy numbing spice.