Is Kobe beef worth the hype? - Where to find affordable Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan?
When heading to Kobe, one would definitely try to place tasting Kobe beef on their list. We were extremely excited to munch on them when we first decided to head to Kobe. But are they really melt-in-your-mouth kind of tasty?
What's Kobe beef?
First, we thought that we would need to educate people on what Kobe beef is. Kobe beef is like the Jamon Iberico of Jamon (Spanish cured ham) - where Kobe is the premium variety of wagyu beef.
So what then is Wagyu?
Wagyu refers to a cattle that is bred in Japan. The history of Wagyu goes this way... In the 1880s, there were several breeds of European cattle that were brought into Japan and were cross-bred with native Japanese prized breeds. Of which, four strains of Japanese cattle that were carefully selected are now known as Wagyu. Majority of Wagyu are the Japanese Black Cattle which is prized for their intensive marbling. The marbling are layers of fat of the beef which provides a much softer texture when eating the beef.
To develop Wagyu beef, Japanese breeders have to take extreme care of their cattle. Special feed was made out of grasses, rice straws, forages, along with a supplement of barley, corn, soybean, wheat bran, and sometimes even with a shot or two of beer or sake. This stringent diet, together with a longer period of time to fatten the cattle, is what enables the intensive marbling of Wagyu.
Besides the fat content, Wagyu beef also tastes much better than others as the fat of Wagyu melts at a lower temperature. This gives a buttery taste to the beef. Kobe beef, is seen as the premium grade of Wagyu and the beef will have to go through a certification to be considered Kobe. Perhaps because of that, these variant of beef are much pricier than regular Japanese beef.
There are restaurants in Kobe that serve Kobe beef priced in the hundreds, but because we really just wanted to taste it to see if it is worth the hype by so many travellers and foreigners, we decided to find an affordable restaurant in Kobe.
Where to find affordable Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan? - STEAKLAND
Our search brought us to Steakland, a Teppanyaki joint that serves Kobe beef in their menu. And if you want to get it for a steal, head to Steakland for lunch!
They serve Kobe Beef Steak Lunch (150g) for 3,180 yen (~$40 sgd). For those who are on a budget, but still want to have Japanese beef, Steakland also offers set lunch for that at a fraction of the price!
For those who are intending to visit, try to head over to Steakland when they open if not you may have to queue up to get it! Fortunately, since they are a chain, you'll be able to find many of their restaurants in various parts of Kobe! :)
Steakland, Kobe, Japan
Japan, 〒650-0012 Hyōgo-ken, Kōbe-shi, Chūō-ku, Kitanagasadōri, 1 Chome−8−２ 宮迫ビル 1F2F
Operating Hours: 11am - 10pm
We went to the one closer to the station and since we were there at 11.05am, we got seats immediately. We were ushered in to the beautifully-decorated restaurant where chefs stood at their stations to welcome us. The waitresses would hand you a menu where you can select your meal of choice. Since we wanted to compare what's the difference between Japanese beef vs Kobe beef, we ordered a small steak lunch and a kobe beef steak lunch.
Each set lunch comes with a plate of salad, some pickles, miso soup, a plate of fried vegetables, rice, and a fruit juice or coffee or tea at the end of your meal.
Two sauces are also served, the lighter one for the salad and the darker one for the beef!
Then, we got ready for the action!
Our chef started with the garlic! These garlic were pre-fried and left at the teppanyaki counter. The chefs will then re-fry them to create a super crispy and yummy version! A staff then brought out the beef shortly after we ordered, and it was very clear which was which...
To be honest, the marbling was that amazing as what I expected but wow, thick slabs of Kobe beef are prepared right in front of us!
And this was the result of the cookout! Left: Japanese beef, Right: Kobe Beef. It was obvious that the kobe beef looked juicier and much more succulent. But we reserved our thoughts till we ate them...
The Kobe beef definitely tasted a lot softer than the chewy lean Japanese beef. However, we weren't quite blown away by the taste of it. Perhaps we expected more when our friends told us that we had to try Kobe beef at Steakland and it really melt-in-your-mouth. But no, it didn't melt-in-our-mouths. Instead, the soft texture was due to the doneness of the beef. Kobe beef was done about medium-rare so you could feel a little of the red raw meat along with the outer sear.
We weren't too pleased by what we tasted though...
Perhaps it isn't the fault of the Kobe Beef, much less Steakland, but we realised over the course of our beef eating extravaganza was that the CUT of the beef mattered more than the variant of beef.
You know how you get absolutely perfect steak even if its not tagged as Wagyu or Kobe? Yes, you can have an excellent Steak when it is a ribeye steak. The fats and cuts of the meat mattered a lot more! This was evident when we had Matsusaka Beef on the very same night we had Kobe.
In our opinion, Kobe beef is the variant that is more popular amongst tourists but every Japanese do know that the creme de la creme has got to be Matsusaka instead. The marbling is more intensive and think of Kobe as the top 10% of Wagyu whereas Matsusaka as the top 1%. So after tasting Matsusaka in Tokyo, and from an excellent restaurant in Osaka (review coming right up, subscribe to get the latest updates!), we left Steakland with unsatisfied tummies.
To all who intend to head to Kobe, either try out the top-tier restaurants where you can get a say of the cut (and don't scrimp on the experience like we did) and perhaps Kobe beef would be worth the hype. But if you are budget like us, you can give Kobe beef a miss and stick to Matsusaka!
Have you tried Kobe beef and do you think it is worth the hype?