January 20, 2011
This originally happened last year but…well, here it is!
Life in Japan for me has switched from a bizarre daydream…I’m actually here this is weird better go eat some sushi now…into a countdown. I have less than a year left here barring some amazing job discovery so now it feels like I need to cram all the trips and events I failed to get around to the first go through into a quickly dwindling timeframe. After a slight Autumn funk caused by…I don’t even know anymore…I finally feel the need to not spend all my free time hunched over my home heating unit. This weekend I joined two friends on a semi-impromptu trip to Kobe to do something I’d always wanted to do here…feel like a total rich person and eat Kobe beef.
Kobe beef carries quite the reputation, at least according to The Cheesecake Factory menu I recall reading in Towson, Maryland. All sorts of urban myths have attached themselves to this animal, such as they are fed beer and given extravagant massages, neither of which are actually true. Kobe beef looks incredibly appetizing even without any grilling, like steak in a Tom And Jerry cartoon that looks better raw than cooked. The city of Kobe isn’t terribly far from where I live…like, three hours at most…so eating Kobe beef in its namesake city has been one of the more decadent dreams I’ve had since coming to Japan. I finally decided to cross that one off last weekend.
We chose to eat the world famous beef for lunch, off the hunch it would be slightly me affordable as a midday meal. The area surrounding Kobe’s Sanmiya Station hides a bevy of dining options within its surprisingly open downtown area…compared to the narrow walks of Osaka and the complete crush of Tokyo, Kobe felt like a national park…a fair amount of which feature photos of Kobe beef seemingly sculpted out of an artist’s clay. We reached our destination, a restaurant found on the third floor of a seemingly narrow building that was clearly far too swanky for our likes (“they take your coat AND HANG IT FOR YOU what is this Ducktails?”), especially given my outfit of a semi-ironic Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
We sat down at a table featuring a grill in the middle, not unlike Bennihanas in America but a far cry from a gimmick. The waitress poured us glasses of water…FROM A GLASS BOTTLE…and we were given the menu. We had originally been set on the lunch special that, for about $45, gave you a “very similar to Kobe beef” meal plus a slew of sides. Yet after a few moments of internal debate, capped off by an overly-dramatic-given-the-situation group realization that this would be our one chance to eat authentic Kobe beef in Kobe (somewhere, a child in India pokes at a ratty shoe hoping a mouse comes out of it so they may have dinner for the night). We took the plunge…we ordered the expensive lunch set, which you can see pictured below. I swear most nights my dinner consists of a piece of white bread with a Kraft single carefully melted over it.
Committed, we placed our order and our friendly chef for the day took up his post right in front of us. As we pecked away at our salad, soup and rolls (two big pieces of bread, is this what the Four Seasons is like?) he fried up several vegetables for us as an appetizer. Surprise of the trip – beets taste pretty good! Then out came the beef.
Maybe we just fell victim to the “we paid a lot of money for this meal of course it’s delicious” mental pitfall, but it really did taste amazing. I’m not a food critic so I won’t bother trying to explain why, and instead just declare that’s some darn good eating. Very very juicy. It’s a great meal to splurge on, and I would say sort of a must if you ever find yourself in Kobe someday, price be damned. Plus, that’s some quality bread!
Following lunch we spent the rest of the day moseying around Kobe, seeing the famous port area and the also pretty hyped up annual “illumination” aka Christmas lights display. It’s a city far too beautiful to just describe as “looks like Seattle” like some bumbling traveling writer, a compact but packed place deserving of words far more inspired than whatever I barf up from one afternoon spent wandering around the harbor. So let’s just stare at some pictures.