The seven-boned tomahawk at MB Steak, which serves 12 people and then some, is already an Instagram star.
Steak for two is delicious and plenty impressive looking when presented at the table. That is good enough for many. But, these days, during the age of large-format everything, the oversized serving of beef is also unarguably common. So it makes sense that for some denizens of Las Vegas, America’s empire of excess, only steak for 12 will do – at a cost of $1,200, which includes an assortment of decadent sides such as lobster mac and cheese, creamed spinach with truffle gouda, and maitake mushrooms swirled up in goat cheese.
Game is completely on one recent night at MB Steak inside Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s Sin City outpost. That is where a mammoth round of prime beef has become the showstopper of choice for large groups. Called “The Feast” on the menu, nicknamed “The Beast” by co-owner Michael Morton, the steak is actually a seven-boned tomahawk that gets carved up tableside. It comprises a good portion of the cow’s rib cage. For those who thrill to spectacular cuts of meat, this one is a sight to behold.
In MB’s kitchen, the imposing 16 pounds of prime beef, charred on the outside and presumably medium-rare below the surface, rests upon a serving platter – with the big reveal impending for a table full of expectant diners. Executive chef Patrick Munster looks down, taking it in with admiration.
“The larger and the more obnoxious an entrée is, the more the guests dig on it,” he says, referring to his customers who constantly hunt down the next big thing. “I chop out the bones and people chew on them Fred Flintstone style.”
In other words, half the crowd gets to hold one like a tomahawk and turn all Game of Thrones while consuming dinner in elegant surroundings.
Beyond the taste experience, an order of MB’s mega steak provides the necessary evidence for showing friends that you went to Vegas and pushed the culinary envelope. “I brought four of these Feasts to an upstairs table of 45 people,” recalls Munster, who dreamed up this idea of turning a premium steak dinner (as ubiquitous, in Vegas, as a slot machine) into the kind of experience that tourists can’t help but brag about back home. “Everybody got up and circled the cutting board with their iPhones. Of course they photographed it before they ate it. The Feast is perfect for Instagram.”
But there’s nothing "insta" about actually getting the thing. MB asks that the Feast be ordered 72 hours ahead of serving. That gives Munster enough time to procure the slab of meat and prep it. For diners showing up at, say, 8:00 p.m., once the meat has been ordered and delivered (not all that hard to obtain and a time saver for the butcher who gets to sell seven tomahawks without needing to break them down), the prepping and cooking begins a day ahead of time. Munster starts by scoring the fatty layer on top. Then he unsparingly coats the steak with whole-grain mustard, French sea salt, toasted coriander, and Worcestershire sauce before leaving it overnight. Flavors get a chance to settle by the time he slides the Feast into the oven. It cooks for five-and-a-half hours at 300 degrees. “Low and slow,” as Munster likes to put it. Finally, when done, MB’s steak rests for a couple hours prior to presentation.
Before serving, the crust will be rolled off and the big bones will be gawked at. “People love those bones,” says Munster. “And they pay for them. Essentially, what you have with the tomahawk steak is a rib eye without the bone nipped off.”
Aiming to give his triple-digit paying customers their money’s worth, Munster puts on a bit of a show as he carts out dinner. Instead of ringing a bell, the tattooed chef gets a bit bro-ey by announcing, “It’s game time!” The “Rocky” theme does not play, but you get the feeling that it might.
At a table of 12, we have been munching appetizers of crab cake, rock shrimp, and Caesar salad, all washed down with seemingly endless pours of red wine. Then, suddenly, all conversation ceases. Eyes turn to Munster and his rolling portion of cow. He snaps on a pair of black rubber gloves, which help to give him a bit of an executioner vibe. He poses with the Beast (Morton has given it the proper name) for a volley of iPhone pics. Then Munster cracks his knuckles as he prepares to carve up dinner. Thick pink slices of meat fall away – oozing enough blood to send any vegetarians running for the door (wisely, those at the table are all meat eaters) – and the passing of plates commences.
He loads up everybody with meat that appears to be more prime rib than rib eye. This is largely due to the fact that most of it is encased inside the crusting, which, essentially, transforms the beef into an amalgam of rib roast and rib eye. The consistency is tender, the flavor is rich and the bones live up their billing from Munster. “Go at them,” he advises his diners. “It will be some of the best steak you ever eat.”
He’s right. But after 45 minutes or so, a dozen carnivores crowding the Vegas table find themselves faced with a single dilemma: How do we finish? The thing is so massive and so satisfying that it feels as if we’ve barely put a dent into the Beast. But that is not a problem. Doggie bags are proffered and filled. Somewhere in Las Vegas, canines will soon be very happy – or else there will be some terrific steak sandwiches in store for tomorrow’s lunch.