When you visit a restaurant in Kobe serving its namesake beef, it is easy to see just why this is a meat like no other. Prepare to be amazed as the chef's razor-sharp knife slices through the marbled steak like butter. Having this exquisitely tender and tasty dish cooked to order before you on a teppanyaki iron grill top is an experience any fan of fine dining should enjoy once. The privilege may cost you anything from 7,000 to 12,000 (around 60 to 110 US$) per person for lunch or as much as 20,000 yen for dinner (around 180 US$), but it’s sure to prove an unforgettable and culinary treat.
Kobe beef comes from the Tajima-gyu breed of cattle found in Japan’s Hyogo Pre fecture, where the animals must be born, raised and slaughtered to earn the ‘Kobe beef’ title. In fact, the eligibility criteria for Kobe beef are the strictest in the world and regulated by five factors: “heifer or bullock”, BMS (Beef Marbling Standard – from 3 to 12, where 12 is the most heavily marbled with fat): No. 6 and above”, “Yield Grade: A or B”, “Quality Grade: 4 and above” and “Carcass Weight: 470kg and less”. Cattle must also be bred and raised by designated farmers in Hyogo Prefecture.
There are many high-quality venues in which to enjoy Kobe beef within minutes of Sannomiya Station, and you can check the designated registration stores on the homepage of the official Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.
You generally enjoy Kobe beef at a counter seat, wearing a paper apron to protect against sizzling juices. After you select your choice of meat from the menu by variety and weight, the chef will show you the raw steak before cooking it to your desired state. (Have no fear, as restaurants will always do their best to meet your preferences.) The beef is best enjoyed with a fine red wine and condiments like shallots, vegetables and garlic, which are often sourced from growers across Japan. Seasonings like salt and mustard can enhance the flavor even further, as will the citrus ‘ponzu’ sauce alongside your plate.
We recommend that visitors to Kobe embrace the experience of sampling Kobe beef and enjoy capturing the highlights on camera and video. Marvel at the mastery of the chef in action, using decades of experience and wielding a knife moving in a blur to prepare your meat and accompaniments. Either the chef or the helpful staff around them can usually answer your questions with a happy and hospitable smile.
Paying for the memory of Kobe beef reflects the modern trend among visitors to personalize their trips with experiences and memories that will last a lifetime over and above material possessions. Few Japanese cities can boast a culinary delicacy so indelibly linked to the area’s history and tourism – truly, there is no better way to celebrate your time in Kobe than with the city’s most famous dish.