I got to enjoy Kobe beef for the first time! Here is a taste of the anticipation leading up to the first fatty bite…
My brother requested Kobe beef during his visit to Akashi (the city next to Kobe). Kosuke’s dad generously treated us to a feast starring Kobe beef at his friend’s French-inspired restaurant. This friend (above cooking our Kobe beef steaks) recently retired from his chef position at a high end hotel to start his own restaurant.
I have happily eaten here many times, including the opening night of the restaurant. It has been fun to see the restaurant grow and mature from its first days when the waiter forgot to bring us forks. The food is always so delicious and beautifully presented!
This time – my fourth visit to the restaurant – the chef prepared a special Kobe beef meal just for us. The secret menu. 🙂
The chef even came to our table to show off the platter of six glistening Kobe beef steaks that he personally bought for our meal.
Snow Frosted Steaks
In Japanese, the rich fatty marbling of Kobe beef is described as “icy snow frosted.”
The meat was so incredibly fatty! You know those clunky wood-handled steak knives that are common in American steakhouses? Knives are totally unnecessary with meat this tender and rich.
The meat came with 3 dipping sauces – teriyaki steak sauce, salt, and white miso. The chef recommended salt. I was a purist and ate my steak dipped in salt the whole way!!
But wait! There were 3 courses before the steak.
The Kobe beef plate was just the culmination of a belly-bursting feast. In addition we enjoyed…
Course #1 – Appetizers
Smoked salmon with capers, tiny snails, buttery escargot, soy bean based spread on toast, raw seafood ceviche-type dish.
Course 2 – Peach Soup
Course 3 – Seafood with four sauces!
Grilled shrimp and fried fish with 1) balsamic vinegar reduction, 2) beet sauce, 3) citrus-y orange sauce, and 4) creamy leek sauce.
Every bite had a new flavor and texture! The puff pastry (peeking out from behind the shrimp) added a flaky crunch that beautifully complimented the crisp seafood.
A brief intermission – Watermelon Sorbet
To prepare our mouths for the Kobe steak to come…
Course 4 – Kobe Beef
Then the star arrived to the party accompanied by simple mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. There was a green salad too but I forgot to take a picture. My attention was stolen by the Kobe beef.
Course 5 – Dessert with Tea
Vanilla ice cream, stewed apple, watermelon, yokan (jellied red bean paste), cake, pudding.
How do you call this in the United States?
When you set the table in Japan, the chopsticks are typically prepared with the tips propped on a small rest to keep the ends off the table. (Like a spoon rest.) This small item is called “hashioki” (literally meaning – chopstick rest).
In this restaurant, our utensils were prepared on a specially designed metal rest.
When asked – what is this called? – I could not answer. Not sure if I have ever seen one of these in the United States. I enjoyed seeing how Western culture has been adapted to fit Japanese customs.
All that “Kobe beef” you have been eating in the States…
Maybe it is not fair to say this as someone who just gorged themselves on authentic Kobe beef. But the “Kobe beef” in the United States is not always real Kobe beef.
A while ago, I read (I think in the NY Times) that so-called “Kobe beef” in the United States is often mislabeled.
One special characteristic of Kobe beef is its fatty marbling. This makes certain kinds of preparation impossible. For example, trying to make a “Kobe beef” burger would not really work. The fat would prevent the burger from sticking together.
Now that I have had the real thing, I think I understand. My chunks of Kobe beef were like meat cake – hands down the richest food I have ever eaten. YUM!