Champagne from Champagne. Camembert cheese from Camembert. Bowen mangoes from Bowen. All the best foods are named after places. It is no different when it comes to Kobe beef. But this legendary steak is so much more than just a cow 34 kilometres west of Osaka.
Kobe beef comes from a select strain of wagyu cattle in the Hyogo Prefecture, raised by the rules set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. To qualify as “Kobe beef” the cow must be a purebred Tajima-gyu cow that has maintained a pure bloodline since the Edo period (1615 to 1867). To put that in perspective, other things that happened at that point in history included Shakespeare, the French revolution and Captain Cook landing on the beaches of Australia for the very first time. In addition they must also be virgins and castrated if they are bulls. This makes Kobe beef a very exclusive club, with only 5,000 cattle a year making the grade.
But it is not just the scarcity that has made Kobe beef so famous. Its well marbled texture creates one of the most flavoursome, tender pieces of steak known to man kind. In other words, it’s a bloody good piece of beef. I was salivating just thinking about it. And after dropping enough hints on the Saturday, Adam and Rie agreed to take us to Kobe for lunch the next day.
We thought we found the perfect restaurant. It was a small place, off the main Steak Street (not actually called that – just a street with a large density of Kobe beef restaurants). It had a 5 star rating with a tonne of reviews. Unfortunately it was also fully booked for Sunday lunch. Luckily we still had a couple of recommendations from Genki, one of which was nearby. Genki was a friendly Japanese guy who just happened to be eating at the table next to ours the previous night. Now everyone likes to think that people in their country are pretty friendly, but Japan takes it to a whole other level. When was the last time you got the waiter to take a group photo with randoms at the table next to you after talking for 10 minutes? I didn’t think so.
We walked into what we thought was the place that Genki mentioned. Strangely the entire place was empty; a stark difference to every other restaurant we had seen along Steak Street. Something was off. Adam spotted that the menu didn’t match what we saw on the sign outside. Rie ducked out to check for the actual place while we pretended to read the menu. Adam got a text message, turns out the place we wanted was upstairs. It was a long awkward walk out of the empty restaurant. Unsurprisingly there was a 30 minute wait, but it was worth every minute.
For $100+ back home you’d expect at least half a kilo of the best steak in Australia and all the sides you could eat. In Kobe that will get you 130 grams in a lunch set, which came with salad, veges, and garlic fried rice. While the price may have been a bit hard to swallow, the food certainly wasn’t. The surface of the beef was so crispy, a mix of being seared to perfection on the hotplate and the various salts and peppers to dip your piece of steak in. While the inside was warm and melt in your mouth soft. You would think that a marbled piece of steak would be full of gristle, but you would be wrong. All of the fat interspersed throughout the beef liquefied and created the juiciest, tastiest piece of steak that I’ve ever had in and around my mouth.
After lunch I felt content. Not the kind of content where you got your moneys worth at the cost of your stomach being stretched to the point it is crushing other organs. But the kind of content where it was just the right amount of food that you don’t feel hungry and you aren’t disappointed there wasn’t more because it was insanely delicious. It felt like my stomach was smiling. Kobe beef, 10 out of 10, would eat again. And not just in a figure of speech kind of way; I would definitely fly 8 hours from the Gold Coast and take a 4 hour train from Tokyo to Kobe to taste that delightful beef again.