“My father came to Australia in 1971 literally with just the shirt on his back.
As humble migrants from Croatia, our family worked extremely hard.
And this is where we are today”
~ Anthony Puharich, Owner of Vic’s Premium Quality Meats
In search of a better life, Victor Puharich arrived in Australia from Croatia in 1971.
He worked hard with his brother for meat exporter Andrews Meat and also worked as a kitchen hand for the infamous Les Girls at Kings Cross before setting up his founding butcher shop Vic’s Premium Quality Meats on Oxford street in 1996.
Together with his son Anthony, he expanded the business in 1999 to a purpose-built wholesale facility in Mascot with state-of-the-art cool rooms, cutting floors and packing rooms as well as a dedicated dry-age beef room that caters to beef products for restaurants.
With almost two decades of experience supplying quality meats to retail and wholesale customers, this iconic Sydney butcher opened Victor Churchill to cater to the high-end meat market in Sydney’s affluent Woollahra.
Recognizing good quality meat should be accessible to everyone in the community, this butcher has now opened an outlet at Sydney Fish Market to offer complementary red and white meat products among the legion of seafood retail stores.
With a kind invitation from One Green Bean PR agency, I caught up with Victor’s son, Anthony Puharich (cover image above) at his brand new butchery packed to the brim with fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausages, ham and bacon. It is a meat lover’s paradise complemented by a wagyu tasting bar that serves teppanyaki style beef, pulled pork, slow-smoked beef brisket sandwiches and smoked meats.
Puharich is candid about his family business and shares with me the passion behind one of Australia’s most successful premium quality meat providores.
Vic’s Meat Market, Pyrmont
CMSP: Your family has almost two decades of wholesale meat history in Vic’s Premium Quality Meats. What are the top selling items and why do you think they are so popular?
AP: We Aussies love our red meats and the most popular are beef, pork and lamb, in that order.
Traditional beef cuts like scotch fillet, rib eye on the bone, sirloin, T-bone are by far some of the most popular cuts.
But in the last five years, our stores have seen a big rise in popularity for pork. I think people have come to realize just how tasty and versatile this meat can be.
Pork is also relatively cheaper than beef and lamb so price is certainly a factor too.
CMSP: Meat & Livestock Australia has commissioned research and has identified seven different steak lovers based on their favourite cuts of beef known as ‘steak types’. Which one are you?
AP: (He thinks for a few moments) … That is a difficult one.
CMSP: I think so too. It’s like asking you to choose one among seven beautiful women right?
AP: (He laughs out loud) I’m a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde on this one … a split personality if you like but I will tell you.
I do enjoy different cuts for different reasons but my favourite has to be a piece of rib eye on the bone because as you know, meat is always tastier on the bone.
Also, this cut has a nugget of fat that is so sexy when it is being grilled. It is like a natural baster that give out so much flavour to the meat.
(Please refer to bottom of this interview to find out the results of an Australia-wide survey which involved 1,088 participants that was narrowed to 1,041 meat eaters.)
There are apparently twenty two different cuts of beef available over the meat counter. Which cuts of beef do you think deserves more recognition?
AP: When my father first came to Australia and worked as a butcher, some lesser cuts such as shank and brisket used to be thrown away.
And as we now know, these are some of the tastiest cuts when slow-cooked and they are extremely popular in the colder months. Skirt and brisket steaks definitely deserve more attention from meat lovers.
CMSP: Your business supplies meat to some of the top restaurants in Sydney. Who are your most loyal restaurant clients and why?
AP: I have to be cautious here as we have so many valued restaurant clients.
In the early days, chefs like Matt Moran (Aria), Neil Perry (Rockpool), Luke Mangan (Bistro LuLu, Salt and Glass Brasserie), Dietmar Sawyere (Berowra Waters Inn and Ad Lib) and Peter Doyle (est.) have been our loyal clients. They are the stalwart chefs who really supported us and are the bedrock of our business.
Now, we also supply to chefs like Alessandro Pavoni (Ormeggio at The Spit) and Frederico Zanellato (LuMi). I am fairly ambitious and we work hard with our suppliers to ensure consistency in quality. These chefs understand the product they are getting from us is high quality.
CMSP: Sydney is world-famous for its seafood and the Sydney Fish Market is an important tourist destination for thousands of visitors each year. Being a butchery, how was Vic’s Meat Market conceived to open an outlet here at the fish market?
AP: Pyrmont is such a central location and it is extremely strategic because we are so close to the CBD and the fish market is also a big attraction for tourists and overseas visitors.
The seafood providores like De Costi don’t see us as competition because we complement rather than compete with their business. It makes good sense for us to be here to offer customers a one-stop shop experience.
CMSP: I am making the convenient presumption you are a meat lover. Which is your favourite steakhouse in Sydney or other cities around the world?
AP: Peter Luger steakhouse in New York is one of many favourites because they have so much old fashioned goodness in their steaks and they do their porterhouse / New York cut so well.
CMSP: Beef steaks are one of the most popular meats we Aussies throw on to the BBQ every summer. Can you tell us your top tips for grilling that perfect steak?
AP: We have been trying to educate our customers that firstly, a good steak comes from good quality meat. It is difficult to expect good flavour from low quality meat.
Secondly, the meat needs to be at room temperature before grilling. Set your BBQ at high heat when you take the meat out from the fridge and turn heat down to medium when it has sufficient residual heat. It is so important that your grill be at the right temperature before cooking. Thirdly, season the meat with salt and some olive oil just before cooking.
I have a lot of respect for Heston Blumental but personally, I prefer not to flip the steak back and forth when grilling. All it needs is a 45-degree turn after a few minutes to give the meat some good searing marks, then flip over once to finish off the cooking. Lastly, it is most important to rest the steak for half its cooking time to allow the meat to relax and retain its juices.
CMSP: There are so many different choices of condiment to go with a good piece of steak, from simple Heinz tomato sauce (just kidding) to seeded mustard, hot English, French Dijon, salsa verde, béarnaise, bordelaise, pepper and the list goes on. What is your favourite sauce to go with a good steak or do you prefer a ‘naked steak’ like some purists?
AP: I’m not big on mustards to accompany my steaks to be honest. I like to savour the pure beefy flavour of a good steak. In fact, one of my favourites steaks at home is a simple skirt steak sliced diagonally and drizzled with a good chimichuri sauce.
CMSP: We Aussies love our red meat. Apart from grilling steaks, what is your favourite red meat recipe that you cook at home?
AP: I love some of the secondary cuts like pork shoulder and lamb shanks because they are especially good when slow-cooked. These are some of our family favourites in winter.
Steak types as identified by MLA:
- Rump (46% of Australians) ~ you have a favourite routine. You are dependable and reliable.
- T-bone (42% of Australians) ~ you are a salad dodger, exuberant and humble.
- Porterhouse / Sirloin (30% of Australians) ~ you have a healthy appetite and consider yourself fearless and charming.
- Fillet (26% of Australians) ~ you are suave and dependable with a focus on staying balanced and healthy.
- Rib eye (23% of Australians) ~ you are an adventurer and have a carefree approach to life.
- Scotch fillet (18% of Australians) ~ you are a foodie, independent and meticulous
- Skirt (4% of Australians) ~ you are a discerning eater, cultured and imaginative with your food choices.
Located next to the butchery is a casual eatery and wagyu tasting bar that offer customers a taste of Vic’s Meat Market’s products.
K O N G ‘ S C A V E
There is a gigantic two-tonne monster in KONG’s CAVE, a casual canteen-style eatery serving smoked sandwiches and burgers.
Diners can munch on pulled pork or slow-smoked beef brisket sandwiches, smoked chicken wings or sample some of the most flavoursome wagyu beef cuts in Australia.
Sitting in the middle of the wagyu tasting bar is this two-tonne meat smoker named KONG.
It has been custom-built for Vic’s Meat Market by Yoder Smokers in Kansas City, USA. It is the biggest smoker in Australia, weighing 2 tonnes and can hold 200kg of meat.
Each night, KONG is lit by trusty pit boss Wes Griffith who turns pork collar butts (upper part of pork shoulder) into smoky pulled pork after a 10-hour process.
KONG is an offset smoker that uses real wood (no gas or pellets) where ironbark and apple wood produce a constant burning timber with a mild smoke flavour.
Beef brisket takes on the tradition of Central Texas where the rub consists of just salt and pepper.
This cut of beef spends 12-hours in the smoker until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Watching Wes Griffiths prepare and marinate chicken wings leaves no doubt in my mind about his passion for the barbecue and smoked meats.
Smoked chicken wings
Smoked chicken wings take on smoky aromas where the smoking rub is a mixture of bay leaves, salt and pepper. Texture of the skin is paper-like as fat has been rendered through the smoking process.
I find the meat too dry and bordering woody. These flappers can certainly do with some tweaking for more juiciness.
Personally, I am not a big fan of coleslaw in my sandwiches but this should not take away the wonderful aromas of tender and succulent smoked beef. The soft and fluffy potato brioche is a star in itself.
This is one of the best beef brisket sandwiches I have ever had.
Smoked wagyu cheeseburger
This no-nonsense cheeseburger goes straight to the point. There is no fiddly lettuce, onion, cucumber or tomato slices.
A smoked wagyu beef patty with two slices of melting cheese, diced white onions, pickled gherkin slices, mustard and tomato sauce are sandwiched by an impossibly soft and fluffy potato brioche.
But seriously folks, you’re looking at it right here ~ the wagyu pattty is packed full of smoky beef flavour. Sinking your teeth into this pillowy brioche is one orgasmic mouthful.
There is no capital punishment in Australia as we are a compassionate people. But if there was ever a last meal for lovers of cheeseburgers, may I humbly say this bad boy right here is the real deal.
It makes sense to offer customers a taste of its products so a wagyu tasting bar called Mr. WAGYU is located next to the butchery.
Tasting the AACo Wagyu Sirloin BMS11+ 250g
Teppanyaki chef Eric Chan presents a 250gm piece of AACo Wagyu Sirloin with BMS score of 11+ which he will be cooking teppanyaki style.
There is a range of top quality wagyu beef that customers can sample from eye fillet to sirloin with a beef marble score (BMS) of 9+ and upwards:
Taste Australia’s best wagyu beef
Blackmore Sirloin BMS9+ 150 gm: $60
Blackmore Sirloin BMS9+ 250 gm: $100
AACo Sirloin BMS11+ 150 gm: $50
AACo Sirloin BMS11+ 250 gm: $85
AACo Eye Fillet BMS9+ 150 gm: $55
AACo Eye Fillet BMS9+ 250 gm: $95
Rangers Valley BMS9+ Vic’s Pick 150 gm: $40
Rangers Valley BMS9+ Vic’s Pick 250 gm: $70
Rangers Valley BMS9+ Emperor’s Cut 150 gm: $80
The marbling on this heavenly piece of beef is truly astonishing. White fat creates intricate patterns around the lean red meat.
Chef Chan drizzles oil on the hot griddle then sears the meat with a few sprinkles of salt.
The meat sizzles away and is only flipped once when the underside is caramelized to a golden brown.
This steak is then cut into bite-sized cubes and drizzled with a concoction of clarified butter and shoyu.
Plated with fine shards of carrot, radish and shallots, it’s a refreshing garnish that I actually enjoy when soaked into the butter and shoyu sauce.
It’s an early Monday morning and there are just a few customers chomping on cheeseburgers and wings for breakfast, so I call out to the pit boss Wes Griffiths.
“Mate, I don’t usually chow down a hefty steak for brekky, let alone this beauty! Can you help me here please?” I say to him.
He wanders over to my table and have a chat while we tuck into these golden pieces beef ingots.
“They’re pretty bloody good” the pit boss says.
I close my eyes and savour each chunky cube of this prized wagyu. It is gently crisp on the outside while the succulent meat slowly melts away in my mouth.
Instant cool wet towel
How ingenious is a little white tablet that immediately wriggles up into a chilled wet towel when dropped into some water? This little wet one is good because I manage to wipe the grease off my lips.
But it failed to wipe the smile off my face.
So dear readers, do you like beef steaks and if so, which steak type are you?
ChopinandMysaucepan dined courtesy of One Green Bean PR agency and Vic’ Meat Market. Prices are included for readers information only. All views and opinions on this blog post are our own at the time of attendance.
Tel: +61 2 8570 8570
Opening hours: Vic’s Meat Market Daily 8am to 5pm. MR. WAGYU & KONG’S CAVE Daily 10am until sold out.
132 Queen street, Woollahra
New South Wales
Tel: + 61 2 9328 0402
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm, Saturday 8am – 6pm Sunday 9am – 5pm
Vic’s Premium Quality Meats (Wholesaler)
4 Merchant street, Mascot
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9317 6900
Open to public only on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm