Kobe has always been one of Japan’s most cosmopolitan cities, with a culinary scene reflecting its international influences. Yet Kobe is also no slouch when it comes to Japanese cuisine, with numerous restaurants cooking up the city’s biggest claim to fame: Kobe beef. Here’s some of our favorites.
This no-frills restaurant has been packing in customers for more than 40 years with a single dish: gyoza (Japanese-style dumplings). Hyotan’s dumplings are known for the light texture of their wrappers, which are filled with savory cabbage, minced pork and leek. Tucked beneath the tracks of Hanshin Sannomiya Station, Hyotan has no English sign, but look for the red noren curtains hanging in front of the entrance.
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Located on a hillside overlooking Kobe, Kitano Club is one of the city’s most popular fine-dining restaurants, known for its panoramic views and exceptional French cuisine. Open for more than 50 years, the restaurant’s menu changes monthly, with typical offerings including foie gras, escargot, and dishes featuring fresh fish, roast beef, duck or lamb with seasonal vegetables. The restaurant’s stylish interior is a great spot for people-watching and the separate bar and lounge area is a relaxing place to linger after dinner, offering views of Kobe in the valley below.
For many people, the name ‘Kobe’ is inextricably linked to its world-famous beef, and Wakkoqu is one of the best places in the city to give it a try. There are several set menus featuring various cuts of beef, which is cooked directly in front of dinners on large iron griddles. The beef is served alongside side dishes like soup and fried vegetables, and the chefs provide guidance on which sauces and seasonings to add for different flavor experiences.
Opened in 1948, Nishimura is a timeless café that offers more than 20 different blends of coffee, all of which are roasted on-site. Set in a German-style house, its distinct half-timbered exterior has helped to establish it as a well-known Kobe landmark. The interior exudes the same elegant charm, decorated with antiques and beautiful wooden furniture. It was one of the first places in Japan to serve now-popular cappuccinos, Vienna coffees and coffee jelly, earning it a lasting place in Kobe’s coffee culture. Aside from coffee, the café offers a light menu of sandwiches, cakes, and other snacks.
Totenkaku is set in the 19th century F.Bishop House, one of the oldest Western-style houses in the city. Open since 1945, this restaurant is well-known for its Peking duck, which is regularly flown in from China. Totenkaku also offers both a la carte and set menus of Chinese cuisine, including traditional floral teas that seem to bloom when served inside transparent pots. The interior lives up to the restaurant’s royal name, with high ceilings, deep red carpets, along with Chinese artifacts and artwork.
Nailey’s Grill, 2-8-12 Kanocho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan | Courtesy of Nailey's Grill
Nailey’s Grill is a friendly, European-style restaurant nestled down a quiet alleyway. The international menu features burgers, sandwiches, soups, and Kobe beef, but the restaurant is particularly well-known for its Caesar salads. The staff speak both Japanese and English, and the interior is invitingly decorated with warm lighting, comfortable seating and muted pink walls. Jazz music adds to the laid-back atmosphere, making this spot a great place for a meal or post-dinner drinks.
Sun is one of the city’s few avant-garde restaurants, known for its creative dishes and trendy decor. The menu features seasonal fish, grilled eel sushi, tofu, and premium meats such as Kagoshima pork. The restaurant is also known for its dim sum, which represents an innovative twist on the Chinese tradition. The contemporary interior features metallic mesh walls, earthenware pottery, dried flowers, and its 10th floor location allows for dramatic views of the Kobe cityscape.
Set in the former Kobe Union Church, Café Freundlieb offers one of the city’s most unusual dining settings. The German owners were married in the church and later purchased the building to save it from demolition, subsequently making the decision to convert it into a café. The design takes advantage of the church’s distinct architectural features, including its arched windows, exposed wooden beams and sky-high ceilings. The menu features salads, sandwiches, organic coffee, as well as fresh pastries, bread, cakes, and other desserts which are made at the on-site bakery.
Steakland Kobe is a more affordable place to try Kobe beef that also offers English menus. The interior’s dark wood paneling is reminiscent of an American steakhouse, yet the arrangement of tables around the central griddle distinguishes it as a teppanyaki restaurant. The set menus feature steak, miso soup, rice, Japanese pickles, dipping sauces, salad, and grilled vegetables, plus coffee or orange juice at the end of the meal.
Bistrot Cafe-de-Paris | Photo Courtesy of Bistrot Cafe de Paris
Bistrot Café de Paris offers authentic French cuisine and one of the city’s few outdoor dining areas. The menu features soups, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, as well as classic French dishes like beef bourguignon and crème brûlée, in addition to an excellent selection of Belgian beers and wine. The interior is decorated to resemble a typical French café, complete with a live accordion player serenading dinners on certain days. Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com