Welcome to our new weekly series, dedicated to the vast variety and range of Japanese food. Each week we will be bringing a little information on some Japanese specialties, when and where they originate from, and the best and most accessible places in Japan to try them out. Today we are starting with what is considered the best beef in the world -- Kobe Beef.
Okay, let’s talk about food, and why not start with the best. Kobe Beef is widely considered to be the best beef you can eat in the world, and for the most part, you can only get it in Japan, and will pay a pretty penny for the privilege, however, we can tell you from experience, it is worth every last yen.
First, a little background on the famed Kobe Beef. The name ‘Kobe beef’ isn’t a type or breed of cow, but refers to the cuts of beef from a particular strain of wagyu cattle, the Tajima strain. The cattle are born and raised with farm feeding in the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, as required by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association, and the beef must also pass several “gradings” set out by the same association.
Some of these grades include:
- A caucus weight of 470kg or less
- Fine meat texture and excellent firmness
- A marbling (which Kobe beef is renowned for) of 6 or higher (it goes up to 12)
Kobe beef is renowned for it’s flavour. It’s a lean, sweet meat that melts in your mouth, due to the unique fat marbling that happens through the meat. Another factor to it’s spectacular flavour is the content of inosinic and oleic acids found in the cuts of beef.
All certified beef that has been classified “Kobe beef” is stamped with a Japanese chrysanthemum mark that shows it is officially certified.
In fact many farms go to great extremes to raise the cattle in luxury, many hand-feeding the cattle, giving them sake baths, and having them drink beer, as well as hand massaging them. These cattle are cared for better than most.
Devon, who was the first to try kobe beef from the Japlanning team, probably describes how amazing it is perfectly:
“Meat that caresses your taste buds while a choir of baby angels sing you love songs. Your life will be completely, absolutely changed, and simultaneously ruined forever, when all at once you realise that you can really only get true Kobe in Japan, and every other beef is a cruel, cruel impostor.
There's only two foods I'd kill someone for. One is Guillaume's Parish Mash at the Sydney Opera House, and the other is a perfectly cooked piece of Kobe beef. By 'perfectly' cooked, I'm fairly sure someone could cover it in raw sewage and it would still be the best piece of beef I've ever put in my mouth.
In other words, this would be my "death row" meal.”
Now if that doesn't convince you of how amazing this beef is, we're not sure what will!
Well here is the devastating news. 99.9% of Kobe beef is only available in Japan. Now you may be thinking I’m lying as your boutique bar down the road sells “Kobe Beef Sliders” for $10.00. Well we’re bursting that bubble: this isn’t true Kobe beef.
In fact, Kobe beef was first allowed to be exported internationally in 2012. First to Macau, then USA, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. The total amount exported to the USA has been less than 430kg. So those sliders that you’re buying are not Kobe beef. If you want to be sure, ask to see their Kobe beef certification, and you’ll never see them again.
This all amounts to be another great reason to visit Japan, where you can try the greatest steak in the world, right from it’s origin. And, to save you from having to hunt around trying to find a restaurant that serves up the dish, we’ve prepared a list of some of our favourite places to dine for Kobe.
The Oak Door - Grand Hyatt Tokyo
We can attest for this one, as we have eaten here ourselves (well five of us have). The Oak Door is renowned for for premium quality meats and fresh produce used in their open kitchen. It’s the Grand Hyatt’s superb take on the steakhouse.
We would highly recommend the Chefs Exclusive Dinner set, which is 18,000¥ per person, and you’ll find that each course is better than the next, all cumulating to the highlight the Kobe beef sirloin, which is to die for. You can also order a la carte and experience the Kobe beef your own way.
The Oak Door at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo is located at 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0032. Reservations can be made on their website here.
511 Kobe Beef Kaiseki - Asakusa, Tokyo
This restaurant, which is tucked away in old Tokyo, and not too far from the major tourist attraction, Sensoji Temple, centers around Kobe beef.
With many set menus with courses using different parts of the cow, and in a variety of ways, 511 is a great place to try Kobe beef.
511 Kobe Beef Kaiseki is located at B1, Dear Plaza Akasaka, Akasaka 4-3-28, Minato Ward, Tokyo 107-0052. Reservations can be made on their website here.
What better place to try Kobe Beef than it’s home. Kobe is located just 20-mins out of Osaka via Shinkansen.
Mouriya - Kobe
This may be one of the most famous Kobe beef restaurants in Kobe, with over 120-years of history, it is known for its beef and cooking techniques.
They have three locations in the area, and all accept reservations via the website here.
Steakland Kobe - Kobe
This location is known for it’s communal seating and the chef cooking your meal in front of you. They have many options in sets and a la carte available, and all in English as well.
Steakland Kobe is located at Kobe-shi Chuo-ku Kitanagasa-dori 1-8-2, just outside Sannomiya Station. More details, and the phone number for reservations can be found on the Japanese website here.
Wakkoqu - Kobe
Wakkoqu is well known for it’s selection of high quality cuts of beef and specialising in Kobe Beef as the centrepiece of each creation. They work with selected ranchers to ensure they get the best meat available fresh daily.
Wakkoqu is located at 3F, Shin-Kobe Oriental Avenue1, 1-Chome Kitano-cho Chuo-ku Kobe-City, just across from Shin-Kobe Station. Reservations can be made on their website here.
Kobe beef is distinctly Japanese, and through it comes at a high price, it is definitely worth the extra yen. The texture, flavour and quality is not matched by any other beef in the world, and simply must be tried to be believed on your next journey to Japan.
Have you ever tried Kobe Beef? How did you find it?
Let us know in the comments below!