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Cairns: Great steak, cooked by you

By Douglas Habecker
Translated by S. Ying

GongYi branch: 536, GongYi Rd, Sec 2, Nantun Dist; (04) 2254-3838
ChongDe branch: 138, ChongDe Rd, Sec 2, Beitun Dist; (04) 2231-8924
Hours: 11:30 am-10:30 pm (last order 9 pm)
English menu.
Credit cards accepted.
10% service charge.

Back in the mid-1990s, "stonegrill" steakhouses--which have diners cooking their own steaks on hot slabs of volcanic rock--became the rage in Taichung thanks to Cairns The Stonegrill, which introduced this concept from Australia. Although a number of copycat establishments eventually disappeared, Cairns has remained and prospered, as its ChongDe Road branch, now almost 20 years old, was joined two years ago by an even bigger GongYi Road restaurant.

Cairns The Stonegrill Cairns The Stonegrill

In the same spirit as hot pot, there's something very enjoyable and satisfying about cooking your own steak. GongYi branch manager Ethan Chan notes that Cairns' top-grade Australian and US beef is all air-shipped chilled (not frozen) and wet aged, which provides a more natural, less "beefy" flavor than dry aging does. All imported beef is from individually-IDed and traceable cattle, meets international standards and is strictly inspected by third parties and Cairns itself.

Cairns The Stonegrill Cairns The Stonegrill
Left: The special-menu 12-oz. Australia grain-fed Angus Sirloin (NT$780) is currently available to the end of March, together with other items like the 8-oz. New Zealand King Salmon Fillet (NT$780).
Right: 'Sous Vide' Cherry Duck Salad

In order to fully enjoy this quality, he recommends cooking steaks medium rare, although some diners go a step further with "blue rare"--practically "beef sashimi". Ethan and his staff can help diners with the proper technique--first searing all sides of the steak on the 400-degree black slab to seal in juices before slicing it up into smaller pieces. Stacking these on carrot slices as one dines prevents overcooking. Although sauces are provided, he suggests only flavoring your meat with rock salt.

All orders here are set meals with multiple appetizer, salad, drink and dessert choices (which change seasonally). Among about seven steak varieties, a popular choice is the 12-oz. Jumbo Australia Beef Eye Fillet (also known as a tenderloin), as well as the beautifully-marbled 8-oz. Wagyu Beef (NT$880), or 12-oz. US Prime Angus Beef Striploin (NT$850).

Cairns The Stonegrill Cairns The Stonegrill
Left: 12-oz. Jumbo Australia Beef Eye Fillet (NT$880)
Right: Daily Fresh Salmon and Cheese Salad

If this wasn't enough, Cairns also has a sizable list of seafood and white meat main courses, plus vegetarian and kids' meals. Non-holiday weekday light lunch meals (11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.) provide smaller portions for cheaper prices. Those who enjoy a good wine with their meal will love not only the excellent, multinational wine list and very low (near-retail) prices, but also the fact that you can bring your own wine with no corkage fee.

Compass Magazine is required by law to remind you not to drink and drive.

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