Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where to eat in Japan - Kobe Beef in Steakland Kobe!

For the Meat-Eating Foodie, few foods evoke as much emotion as the words Kobe Beef. The meat from this prized heifer has been elevated to heavenly heights thanks to rumours that the cows listen to music, feast on sake and beer and receive hand massages. Unfortunately for the romantics among us these rumours are largely inaccurate. What is accurate though is that the strict criteria for use of the Kobe Beef trade mark means that you know you're gonna be in for one heck of a meal.

There are a myriad of restaurants in the town of Kobe serving Kobe beef, but the darling and I settle on what is probably the most popular joint - Steakland Kobe (ステーキランド神戸館). Located on that strip just north of the Non-JR Sannomiya station (三宮駅). The doors in the restaurant open up to reveal a decor not unlike the classic American steakhouse (with dark wood paneling everywhere) - except that there are multiple Teppanyaki stations peppered throughout the dining area. No points for guessing how our meat is going to be cooked, then.

Steakland Kobe near Hankyuu JR Sannomiya Station

Between the two of us we split one order of Special Kobe Beef Sirloin Set (¥5,480 for 200gm) and one order of Special Kobe Beef Tenderloin Set (¥5,980 for 160gm). The raw Sirloin soon arrives table-side looking more marbled than anything I've ever eaten - though naturally the tenderloin isn't as richly fatty. You might notice that some of the marbling strands do seem a little thick - which is a reason why some connoisseurs prefer the other two more finely-marbled wagyu heavy hitters - matsusaka and yonezawa beef.

Steakland Kobe Special Teppanyaki Kobe Beef

No matter; onward to the cooking! As is pretty standard with teppanyaki places we also get a number of side ingredients - shimeji mushrooms, garlic, cucumber and konnyaku jelly. The meat is then also seared on the hot plate (seasoned only with salt and pepper and nothing else as to not ruin such top quality beef) and sliced up into bite-sized pieces. At this stage the entire restaurant does get a pretty strong beefy aroma in the air.

Steakland Kobe Special Teppanyaki Kobe Beef

And then we finally get to eat. The fats in the Tajima cattle melt at a much lower temperature point than normal cows, so our medium rare chunks simply burst with a mixture of fatty and meaty juices and flavor as we chew. We're also served a bowl of rice to go with the meal but we find ourselves pairing rice with vegetables and eating the beef on its' own just to savour the unadulterated flavour.

For me the flavour, texture and juiciness of the meat is unparalleled by anything I've eaten in the past; however I do find myself wishing that it was cooked as a steak in the Western sense - i.e. seared at 1000++ degrees to get that slightly charred crust on the outside.

Steakland Kobe Special Teppanyaki Kobe Beef

To finish off the meal you get a choice of hot or cold coffee or an orange juice. Coffee was adequate.

Steakland Kobe Special Teppanyaki Kobe Beef

We feel that the price we paid was very value for money considering the quality of the meat on offer. Having said that, 200gm (or 160gm) is a nicely-sized portion for lunch, but perhaps might be a tad insufficient for a dinner meal. Or for those among you with bigger appetites. If you're ever on holiday in the Kansai region (Osaka or Kyoto, for example), it really is worth your time to take the 30-minute train ride to Kobe just to eat at Steakland. Note that if you're arriving via JR, the JR Sannomiya station is a 5-minute walk away.

At time of writing, ¥1,000 = SGD 12.60.