If there’s one thing that puts Kansai on the culinary world map, it’s Kobe beef. Tender and succulent, this mouth-watering dish is the reason why tourists flock to Kobe on a gastronomic pilgrimage.
The significance of beef dates back to the 2nd century, when cattle was first used for rice cultivation and grown in small, isolated herds between the mountainous terrains of Japan. This led to unique types of beef throughout the archipelago. Back then, though, beef was not widely consumed.
Fast forward to post World War II, and Japan’s consumption of beef has spiked.
Only Taijima cattle (a breed from the Japanese Black family) that are born and raised in Hyogo – and meet a strict set of standards – can be considered Kobe beef by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association 神戸肉流通推進協議会. So prominent is it that not only has it become a registered landmark, but it has also been cross bred with local cattle in the US to meet the high demand.
Now that that little history lesson is out of the way, let’s get down to business… KOBE BEEF AT KOBEGYU STEAK LAND!
Check out my other travel posts!
While there is certainly no shortage of places to try Kobe beef, Kobegyu Steak Land – or Steak Land for short – is the most recommended among travellers, thanks to their (relatively) reasonable prices and central location in Sannomiya 三宮.
Walking along Sansetto-dori, you’ll be easily bamboozled by the sheer amount of restaurant signs advertising Kobe beef. Still, it’s pretty hard to miss Steak Land – just look out for the snaking queues!
Yes, I say queues because there are two. One close to the pavement, and the other right outside Steak Land’s chocolate coloured doors, probably to leave room for pedestrians to walk past without having to jostle with a crowd of hungry, waiting customers. Fret not, though, as the queue moves relatively quickly and you should be seated in no time (I went around 2pm).
Kobegyu Steak Land is divided into two levels: the ground level, where you’re seated in front of the chef, and the upper level, which boasts private tables in a more intimate setting. No prizes for guessing which one I chose.
The interior is quintessentially Western, and brings old-school English eateries to mind.
For my virgin Kobe beef experience, I had the Kobe-Beef Steak Set (¥4, 480) which is one of the cheaper options on the lunch menu.
On that note, make sure whatever you order has the word “Kobe” written in front of it. Otherwise, you’ll be served ordinary beef which completely defeats the purpose of travelling all the way to Kobe. I repeat, this is not the time and place to make mistakes!
Everything is prepared teppanyaki style, from the refried garlic chips to the vegetables, giving your meal that smoky aftertaste similar to Western barbecues. Best of all, you get to watch everything being prepared in front of you!
I guess that’s where most of the appeal of teppanyaki lies – watching your chef expertly cook your food. Not a moment went by at our table without someone lifting their phone or camera to record the process. I wonder how teppanyaki chefs can work through the pressure of being watched and recorded constantly!
Watching our chef slice through meat as smooth as butter was almost therapeutic amidst the heat from the open griddle and the noise around us. I’m drooling just looking at these pictures – take me back now!
My Kobe-Beef Steak Set in all its glory – Kobe beef cubes, refried garlic chips, vegetables, Japanese pickles, green salad, miso soup and rice with a garlic Ponzu dipping sauce and a thicker, sweeter variety. With our lunch laid out in front of us, it was time to pick up our chopsticks and tuck in.
OH MY MAMA – IT WAS SO GOOD. I don’t know if it was the chilly weather and my being hungry (as usual), but something about biting into those tender, buttery cubes of meat after a morning of gallivanting about in the rain was absolute heaven. The garlic chips added a welcome crunch, and the dipping sauces elevated its already perfect taste. Believe me when I say it had that legendary melt-in-your-mouth texture the moment it hit my tastebuds.
And yes, you can buy a packet of those garlic chips from the restaurant if you want to replicate Kobegyu Steak Land’s creations at home.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and we soon found ourselves finishing the last of our Kobe beef meal and sipping on our drinks (you get a choice of orange juice or hot coffee). I almost didn’t want to step back out into the cold and leave the warm, bustling dining hall behind!
To my amazement, the queue had not shrunk despite it being way past lunchtime when I left. But hey, when in Kobe, go big or go home, right? 😉
Contact: +81 78-332-1653
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm daily
Accurate as of May 2016.