My Real Kobe Beef Experience

by FI Fighter on October 6, 2016

in Food, Japan, Travel Updates

kobe-1-12

I’m back in Hong Kong, after spending about a month in Japan! All in all, it was a wonderful experience and the type of post FI memories created are ones that I will cherish for a lifetime. Over the course of about 30 days, I ended up exploring: Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe. For the purpose of this post I’d like to focus on Kobe and my opportunity to finally experience REAL KOBE BEEF!

First off, what is Kobe beef?

From Wikipedia.

Kobe beef refers to beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle, raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture according to rules as set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. The meat is a delicacy renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, and teppanyaki.

 

The main reason I’ve been so keen on getting to finally sample some REAL KOBE BEEF, is because when I was a lot younger, I was duped into dining at a really expensive steakhouse back home in the states that claimed to have served REAL KOBE BEEF. At the time, I thought the place was legit (it wasn’t cheap!), and ended up overpaying for what turned out be a pretty mediocre experience…

But nevertheless, almost everywhere I went, I would hear about how AWESOME an experience REAL KOBE BEEF was…

It wasn’t until later that I found out:

From Bon Apetiit.

Kobe beef is the world’s most famous red meat, but also misunderstood, extremely rare, and cloaked in mystery. Kobe is an actual place, and its beef is one regional style of Japanese Wagyu (the cattle breed), as Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is to all American cabernet.

Japanese Wagyu, including Kobe, is more widely available in this country than ever before, which is good news for food lovers.

The bad news? It is still scarce, and only a sliver of the many restaurants claiming to serve it offer the real thing. Instead, many serve what’s known in the trade as “wangus,” a hybrid of domestically raised Wagyu breeds and common Angus and call it Kobe. Some don’t even bother using any Wagyu breed at all.

Japan has among the world’s strictest meat grading rules, and while each carcass is graded on four characteristics, most important is “Beef Marbling Standard,” from 1-12. USDA Prime, our highest marbling grade, equates to about 4. Most domestic Wagyu or hybrids would score 6-9, while Kobe usually ranks 10 or higher. The four factors are converted into a final score from 1-5, and assigned a letter based on yield, so the highest possible score is A5, though A4 is still excellent.

Today, enough reaches the U.S. to satisfy the average beef consumption of just 77 Americans. It’s so scarce that Kobe’s marketing board licenses individual restaurants, and real Kobe beef is available at just eight restaurants in the entire country (see the list), while none, ever, is sold at retail.

 

So, it’s safe to say that I was duped during the earlier days of my youth…

I kept on hearing throughout the years about how REAL KOBE BEEF is this, “Wonderful, melt in your mouth, mind-blowing experience!“… And all I could ever counter back with was, “Bro, the ‘Kobe beef’ I ate was pretty rough and tumble!

Anyway, it was about time that I made amends for my past mistakes…

Once you arrive in Kobe, oh… you’ll know you’re in Kobe…

kobe-1-9

Everywhere you go, most definitely every place you look…

kobe-1-10

But who said anything about it being cheap (most obviously, I can’t be eating like this everyday or I’ll be back in the cube in no time!)?

kobe-1-11

Through a recommendation of a friend, we managed to resist all temptations along the way as we set out for this specific place — A family owned restaurant that is currently being operated by three generations. The grandmother was the original founder… and yup, she’s still there; at the ripe young age of 90, she’s now the cashier!

kobe-1-1

After 53 years of making dishes using the same recipe, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke…

kobe-1-5

The salad was far tastier than I expected…

kobe-1-7

Their “secret” ingredient, imported from the salt brines of Bolivia (don’t worry, I won’t go off on a tangent and start rambling on and on and on about lithium here!).

kobe-1-2

Getting ready for the REAL KOBE BEEF experience! Rose salt served alongside the house special Japanese dipping sauce… That’s all you need to add for “flavor enhancing”.

kobe-1-8

On with the show… Just like Benihana’s… Sort of… The Master Chef (son) at work…

kobe-1-3

The sights and sound and smell of that sizzle!

kobe-1-4

OK, enough suspense, here it is!

kobe-1-6

The top half is sirloin, while the bottom half is filet mignon… Served medium-rare, as recommended by the chef himself.

Unbeknownst to me, it turns out that the sirloin cut is actually the more coveted, popular, and recommended of the options… That caught me a bit off guard because in the states, most people lust after the filet, which is almost without question regarded as the most tender cut, therefore the “most desirable” and expensive…

In Kobe?

I gotta admit, the sirloin did taste better than the filet and was somehow, someway, just as tender and soft…

The meal above was only a 100 gram portion, so I had to remind myself to eat slow and enjoy every last morsel. When it comes down to it, bottom line — Kobe beef ain’t cheap, but it was the most delicious steak that I’ve ever had in my life…

Bar none.

So good, I didn’t really even need to dip the steak into any of the sauce or salt…

Yes, it is that damn good!

For me, it was like getting to try bluefin fatty tuna (chutoro and otoro) for the first time all over again… If you’ve never had it before… Mind blown! Well, even if you have had it before… Mind blown! The same can be said for REAL KOBE BEEF.

It just evaporates in your mouth… Like, you hardly even have to chew…

And the best part of the whole experience? The shop owners were the friendliest, most hospitable, and attentive hosts you’ll ever come across… The mom in particular really likes to engage in conversations with her clients, and the ambiance you get is that this place is indeed family owned and operated… The attention to detail is impressive and you can tell that there is a lot of pride going into the end product that they are putting out…

In Japan (and most Asian countries), it isn’t customary to leave tip… even for wonderful service… But this time around, my brother and I just had to leave a little something extra!

 

This Kobe beef restaurant, Steak Aoyoma, turns out to have also garnered some pretty rave reviews on Trip Advisor… Looks like my brother’s friend was on point with her recommendation!

 

I was only in Kobe for a day, but I’ll never forget it!

 

Redemption… It was well worth the wait!

 

Fight On!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Whitney @ Digital Slomads October 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Freak yah! That sounds amazing. Heh, there is/was a popular Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong that claims to serve Kobe beef. It will forever be burned in my mind how obsessed my aunt was with that stuff. Thinking back, I never really understood her obsession…it just tasted like regular ol’ beef. I guess now I know why 🙂 I’d love to try the real thing someday.

Reply

2 FI Fighter October 11, 2016 at 10:45 pm

Whitney,

Haha, yeah kobe beef is pretty amazing! It sure don’t taste like regular ol’ beef. 🙂

Cheers!

Reply

3 Midwestern Landlord October 7, 2016 at 11:31 pm

Life is about experiences and it is awesome you had a good time. Even though it is in your nature to be relatively frugal, I give you a lot of credit for seeing the big picture on enjoying unique experiences. Sometimes that takes a little bit of money.

Thanks for the post.

Reply

4 FI Fighter October 11, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Midwestern Landlord,

Thanks for stopping by. You got that right, when it comes to life experiences sometimes you have to fork over some cash and just live with it. If we are pinching every minute of every day, we will indeed miss out on some potentially great memories.

Like most things, there is a time and a place.

All the best!

Reply

5 Investment Hunting October 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm

How much did that meal cost in U.S. dollars?

Reply

6 FI Fighter October 11, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Nathan,

Less than $60 USD for the full course meal. Totally worth it!

Take care!

Reply

7 theFIREstarter October 10, 2016 at 8:15 am

Your blog is totally random nowadays, love it!

And mmmmmm…. beef! Looks amazing.

Reply

8 FI Fighter October 11, 2016 at 10:48 pm

theFIREstarter,

Haha, yup I like to keep it real and be spontaneous… Being random makes life more enjoyable is my own take.

That beef was indeed mmmmmmmm!

Cheers!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: