How to find affordable Kobe beef in Kobe
Kobe beef has been in the back of my mind since landing in Japan. My entire pilgrimage from Hakuba towards Osaka was driven by the fact that I had to try Kobe beef. If I were to leave the Kansai region without trying it I might as well just go home & forget about the rest of my trip. I knew that trying Kobe beef might blow my budget out a little, but I was willing to sacrifice this for maybe a once in a lifetime experience. However, after doing some research I found the whole experience very affordable & very delicious.
Here are my tips to finding affordable Kobe beef!
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WHAT IS KOBE BEEF
If you don't know what Kobe beef is then let me explain. Kobe beef comes from a specific breed of Japanese cow called Tajima. Due to Japans lack of space for cattle, these cows live in close quarters & because of this, the amount of exercise they get is minimal. However, to overcome this issue they are massaged daily which in turn causes the marbling effect of the beef. Usually, if you were to get a slab of beef you would see the fat rind on the outer layer & then the rest would be meaty flesh.
This is not what Kobe beef looks like, & because of that, it has the most mouthwatering flavour & it simply melts in your mouth like butter. All of these factors come together as to the reason why Kobe beef is one of the best & most expensive cuts of meat in the world (behind Akita Beef).
WHERE IS KOBE?
The city of Kobe is situated in the Kansai region. From Shin-Osaka station it is about a 45 minute train ride on the local lines or a 12 minute ride on the Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe station. You can catch the train to and from Kobe using your Japan Rail Pass or your Pasmo IC card. For more information on transportation around Japan take a look at my article Japan Rail Pass explained + More Japan hacks!
THE BEST TIME TO ORDER KOBE BEEF
Now, this is the key to finding affordable Kobe beef in Kobe. Steak for most people is something they would have for dinner. Put that idea aside. Having Kobe beef at dinner time can cost you considerably more than if you were to have it for lunch. The reason being, at dinner time there is a huge demand thus the prices will naturally go up. In addition to this, the further away from Kobe you find Kobe beef, the more expensive it will be. For an affordable Kobe beef experience go straight to the source at lunch time.
Most places that serve Kobe beef on their menu will have lunchtime set meals. They want people enjoying their cuts of meat at all times of the day & by advertising special prices at lunchtime they are more likely to get more people through the doors during those off-peak times.
Find a place that offers a set menu or set meal for lunch. Google is your friend here, as you can look at a restaurants menu & see what they offer before you go. Keep in mind that you may need to make a reservation. Although this may not be necessary in most cases; it would be better to know you have a table than to show up & be sorely disappointed.
HOW TO COOK KOBE BEEF
There are two ways your Kobe beef will be cooked.
The first is done by a chef in front of you on a Tepanyaki style grill. If you opt for this option be mindful that you may be paying more than if you grill it yourself, as you are paying for the chef's time & skills.
The second is on a grill at your table. This is by far the cheapest & best experience in my opinion. The hostess will set up the grill for you & bring out your side dishes. You can then chose from their menu which cuts of beef you would like. The price of meat is usually calculated per 10 grams. During my Kobe beef experience, I chose 10 grams from a few different cuts ranging from $7 AUD - $10 AUD. From there I could gauge which cuts I liked more than others & then order more accordingly.
Now its time to place your cuts of meat onto the hot grill. If you grill is smoking you should use the cup of ice provided to run over the hot mesh. Cook your Kobe beef to your desired taste but be careful not to overcook. It is better to have your beef undercooked, try it & put it back on the grill than to have an expensive cut of overcooked beef. It will take mere minutes to cook to perfection