When Australian chef Monty Koludrovic moved to California in 2020, he started seeing a lot more tri-tip in restaurants, on supermarket shelves and at the local butcher. “It’s less of a common cut in Australia but it’s everywhere here,” he says.
Tri-tip is a triangular cut with a tapered tip taken from the bottom of the sirloin. “It needs a deft hand when breaking the cut down because there’s grain going three different ways but if you can surprise and delight people with a tri-tip dish, that’s pretty priceless,” says Monty, the executive chef of Los Angeles’ Botanical Hospitality Group, which runs E.P. & L.P., Melrose Rooftop Theatre, Strings of Life Cafe and Grandmaster Recorders.
Most chefs use tenderloin for steak tartare but Monty loves using Westholme tri-tip. “When you have high quality Wagyu tri-tip, you get the texture and flavour that you might associate with a secondary cut but there’s the intramuscular fat that gives you the mouthfeel of a prime cut. It has the best of both worlds.”
To make his new-style tartare, Monty starts by slicing the tri-tip then chilling the meat before chopping. “I get the slices really cold in the freezer without letting them actually freeze, then I dice the meat really small.” He then uses an ice-cold bowl to stir the meat with “maybe 15 seasonings...lots of little nuances.” Mustard, shallots, chives, herbs, capers, lemon zest and chilli are all part of the mise en place.
“I’m chasing balance,” says Monty. “I give it a really good whack in that cold bowl so the fat from the Wagyu gets amongst everything else. I don’t want an oily salad of raw beef: I want it to come to the party with the other ingredients before it melts. I hate a sloppy tartare. I want it to warm in the mouth with a fragrant release.”
The finished tartare is dressed with flowering coriander (cilantro), fennel fronds, Jerusalem artichoke chips, fried kombu threads and bottarga. “I want it to be striking and delicious,” he says.