Monday, October 16, 2023

Japan 2023 ✈ Kobe Beef in Kobe

We had originally planned to visit Japan in June 2020. Over the last 3 years, we had cancelled and rebooked this trip multiple times as Japan was one of the last few countries to reopen its borders to tourism post-Covid. After waiting for 3 years, we were glad to finally make this trip happen this year! This trip has been 3 years in the making and I must say Japan certainly lived up to our anticipation!

19 Apr 2023 (Wed): 2-hr Kobe Beef Experience @ Kobe Kikusui Restaurant 神戸菊水
Hubby and I are not foodies and we don't usually eat-out. However, since we stay in hotels and can't cook when we travel, we prefer to save the eat-out experience for when we travel, and it makes the experience a lot more special and memorable. 

Kobe beef is considered one of the best beef in the world and we've heard how expensive it could be. Since we are visiting Kansai area on this trip, we decided to make a trip to Kobe and splurge on a Kobe beef meal. What better place to try Kobe Beef than in Kobe, the capital of Kobe Beef. 

Given how long in advance we had planned for this trip, I somehow procrastinated on making reservation for our Kobe Beef meal until 2 weeks before our trip...whoops! After watching and reading reviews on Youtube and TripAdvisor, we tried making a lunch reservation at Ishida. Unfortunately, this 'internet-famous' restaurant was fully booked so we decided to try another restaurant that also had good reviews and seemed to be more frequented by locals...Kobe Kikusui Teppanyaki Restaurant 神戸菊水. 

We tried making a lunch reservation on April 18 (lunch is supposed to be cheaper) as we planned to have lunch in Kobe before heading to Koshien Stadium for the baseball game. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed on Apr 18. Thankfully, we managed to make a dinner reservation at 6pm on Apr 19. The website and reservation system were all in Japanese so we had to use Google Translate to make and confirm our!

After spending the first half of the day sightseeing around Kyoto, we took the Hankyu train all the way from Kyoto to Kobe-Sannomiya Station. As soon as we walked out of the train station, we saw signs of Kobe Beef many 'Kobe Beef' restaurants! Glad we did our research before arriving or we'd have been overwhelmed with choices.

We arrived Kobe earlier than planned at 3pm and had 3 hours to wait before our 6pm reservation time. We spent about an hour in Daiso and were done shopping so we decided to rest our legs and kill time at a furniture shop 'testing out' the! 

The restaurant opened for dinner at 5pm so we decided to go earlier at 5pm and ask if they'd let us in earlier. The ground floor is actually a butcher shop selling high-end beef and that's a good sign coz they know their meats. =) This was one of the main reasons we chose this restaurant. We waited outside of the shop looking through the menu and the chef came out shortly to greet us, then led us to the elevator up the 2nd floor where the restaurant was located.

The chef confirmed the name on our reservation and led us to our seats. This restaurant is small and cozy with only 3 teppanyaki bar that sits 6-8 pax. Best part about being early, we had the entire restaurant all to ourselves...private dining. =)

Hubby wanted to order the A5 Kobe Beef Tenderloin course but it was sold out. As such, we ordered the A5 Kobe Beef Sirloin course, Kikusui 'Shikisai' Sirloin Course, and a small Kirin beer for a total of ¥25,080, $187.

So what's the difference between Wagyu beef and Kobe beef, and what makes Kobe beef so expensive? Any cow that is raised in Japan is considered Wagyu, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe Beef, and only a very small proportion of wagyu beef is Kobe beef. Kobe beef comes from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in Hyōgo Prefecture under strict conditions that include a specific diet and careful treatment to ensure quality. Only around 3,000 heads of Tajima cattle are certified as Kobe beef each year, which explains how rare real Kobe beef is, and why it's so expensive. Kobe beef must have a yield and quality score of A4 or A5, with A5 being the best score that can be obtained.

The chef reminded us about our apron, which we gladly put on. =) He also offered to help us take a photo. This chef very!

There weren't other customers for majority of our meal so it definitely felt like a private dining experience with just us and the chef. Our 'private dining' lasted for a good 1 hour and 45 minutes before other customers arrived. The other customers were Japanese (not tourists), which reaffirms we made a good choice choosing this restaurant. =)

While I wouldn't want to be in the chef's shoes to be 'watched' by us the whole time, it was very fascinating to watch the chef meticulously and carefully cook each dish. He was literally flipping each piece of garlic to fry it to perfection...omg! He was also wiping the teppanyaki top after cooking each dish to keep everything super clean. The attention to detail and OCD-ness is a great reflection of Japanese work ethic and professionalism.

The chef was 100% focus on cooking our food. Patience was required watching the chef cook the food one by one. I actually felt sleepy halfway through the! Btw

My Kikusui 'Shikisai' Sirloin course includes Hors d'oeuvre (roasted beef and corn beef), 2 kinds of seafood (fish and scallop), 110g of Wagyu Sirloin Steak, Hot Vegetables, Salad, Fried Rice, Miso Soup & Pickles, and Dessert (strawberry and sorbet).

Hubby's A5 Kobe Beef Sirloin course includes Hors d'oeuvre (roasted beef and corn beef), 150g of prime Kobe beef Sirloin Steak, Hot Vegetables, Salad, Fried Rice, Miso Soup & Pickles, and Dessert (strawberry and sorbet).

Condiments: Soy sauce with garlic, nato, salt
Vegetables: Lotus root, broccolini, sweet potato, onion, mushrooms, beansprouts

The Kobe beef was tender and we enjoyed all the food that was served.  

We finished our meal around 7pm and braved the rush-hour crowd back to Osaka.

 So, the big question...was Kobe beef worth the price? 
As mentioned earlier, we are not foodies so a $120 beef is probably as good as a $20 beef for us, and we probably won't splurge for another Kobe beef meal again. Nevertheless, this was a good experience and we were glad we did it. 

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