When it comes to Japanese cuisine, the main mentality is that if it’s not the best, then it’s not good enough. Kobe beef is a prime example of this type of thinking. It doesn’t matter whether you like steak, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, sashimi, or teppanyaki; no matter your style or your price point, in Tokyo, there’s a Kobe beef restaurant for you.
Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
One of the best ways to try Kobe beef is via the popular and traditional dish shabu-shabu, essentially a Japanese-style hot pot featuring vegetables and super thin slices of the finest beef boiled in water. The name of the dish is an onomatopoeia describing the sound that the ingredients make as they’re stirred in the pot. At Zakuro in Nihonbashi, you can try your cooking skills by making your own shabu-shabu in one of the traditional and stunning wooden-clad private dining rooms dotted throughout the restaurant. It’s open for both lunch and dinner, so there’s no reason not to visit.
Located in the upmarket suburb of Akasaka, Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511 is one beef joint with a seriously good reputation. Their melt-in-your-mouth beef and impressive service mean that it’s become a must-visit destination for many visiting foodies. The ‘511’ in the name of the restaurant comes from their mission to use only the best – A5 grade beef with a beef marbling standard value of 11. Though there are popular tasting menus available, many people just go for the beef, of course.
If you’ve tried Kobe beef in the shabu-shabu style of cooking, then try teppanyaki next. Probably more commonly known outside of Japan than many other dishes, teppanyaki is food cooked on a large iron griddle (plate). The word comes from teppan, which means iron plate, and yaki, which usually means grilled. Though it’s a common way to cook beef, teppanyaki also refers to any other dish cooked on a large plate – for example, shrimp, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba (noodles). Located in the popular hub of Omotesando is Ukai-Tei, a teppanyaki restaurant that combines Japanese black beef with French-style cuisine. If you’re ready to treat yourself to something a little bit fancier, this is the place.
When you think of Kobe beef and combine it with the super upmarket hub of Ginza, what comes to mind is, of course, ‘expensive’; however, Gyuan in Ginza is incredibly reasonable. With its intimate, recycled wood-panelled rooms and traditional Japanese attitude, it’s arguably one of the most authentic Kobe beef experiences accessible to visitors. If you only have a limited time in Japan, be warned, though, as this place can get very busy. It’s recommended that you try and book around a week in advance.
You may know this address as the home of the Park Hyatt, aka the Lost in Translation bar; however, there is more than just that reason to check out this Tokyo institution. New York Grill is the residence of Federico Heinzmann, arguably one of the kings of Kobe beef steak. Usually stocked with either Hokkaido, Saga or Sendai beef, New York Grill is a reliable Kobe beef stop-off for any carnivore ready to splurge.
Known by many serious Kobe connoisseurs as one of the best in the business, this trendy Aoyama establishment is a uniquely Japanese high-end dining experience. At Yoroniku, the servers take you through the Kobe beef experience. It’s recommended that new visitors try the tasting menu, which will set you back a little under US$90–100. However, it’s more than a meal; it’s an education in beef appreciation.
Rich with history, Ningyocho Imahan was established 120 years ago. It’s both a butcher and a shop, which means you’ll always get the very best and freshest cuts on your plate. Located in a number of areas across Tokyo and Yokohama, we recommend checking out the Nihonbashi location. It has traditional floor seating, and with a lunch menu that will cost you under US$50, it’s a safe bet for a reliable meal at a very friendly price.