Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kobe Beef

One of the side benefits to travelling in Japan is that, in the interests of entertaining customers you understand, you get to do some things that are a rare treat. And in this case I use the words "rare treat" deliberately, as we shall see. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Kobe beef. Actually, I don't of course bring you anything of the sort but I'm pleased to say that someone brought us some, even if we were the ones buying.

Quick recap: Kobe beef is a very expensive way of raising cows and is done with the express purpose of making them fat. Not normally a difficult job I'm sure you will agree. However, this isn't fat in the sense of a big ring of lard round the middle, this is fat as in the meat being deeply marbled with fat spread throughout the choicest cuts. Oh, and by expensive I mean a 100 gram portion at the place we ate was $50 (5,000 yen).

The hotel recommended a place in the Ginza district, home to Tokyo's most expensive real estate (just begin setting the scene for how much of a pounding your credit card is about to get) and was called Mikasa Kaikan. The restaurant itself was on the 7th floor of a small collection of shops and cooks in the teppanyaki style, with a large hot plate set up for each group of guests.

Being protective of the budget, three of us had the smallest 100g cut with some vegetables (extra charge!) so we spent about $75 a head with a beer. Another guest had more of a set meal with a 200g portion, and before drinks that was $130. Oh, and our local chap told us that this was quite cheap relative to what you can pay in Ginza for Kobe beef if the restaurant is at the fancier end of the scale, so be warned!

Is it worth it? For a one-off taste of Japan then I'd say yes. The texture is quite unlike any other beef you can find. The fat, being larded through the thin cut steak, turns the bite-size pieces the chef serves all creamy in the mouth, adding a very unique and enjoyable texture to the dish to go along with the wonderful taste. The seafood someone else had was also extremely good so don't be afraid to go even if someone isn't a meat-eater but does eat fish.

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