The Essential Kobe Beef Experience in Kobe, Japan

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If you’ve never had your world rocked by the Kobe beef experience, you really need to get on that. Before eating the real Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan, I was a skeptic. I wasn’t sure if it could change my life, as so many people seem to think. But now that I’ve had the Kobe beef experience, I can assure you the experience is life changing.

Our Kobe beef experience may very well have rendered us unable to ever fully enjoy regular steak again. Yes, it’s true. In fact, we often lament the fact that we can’t eat Kobe beef outside of Japan. Regular steak just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Many restaurants around the world, outside of Japan, claim to use a Japanese grading scale that they say far exceeds typical American grades of beef. After eating the real thing, and trying a few of these impostors, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s only one real Kobe beef and no substitutions will do.

Why is Kobe Beef So Good?

The answer is… it’s a secret! The only thing that is truly known about the production of Kobe beef in Japan is that it is Wagyu cattle born in Kobe and raised by strict standards set forth by the regulatory committee of the Japanese government.

It’s like Champagne. There can be no substitute for the real thing. And thus far, no one has been able to reproduce the incredible flavor and marbling that makes Kobe beef the best in the world, despite attempt to create Kobe-style beef.

If you’re going to Japan, you can’t miss out on the Kobe Beef Experience.. Getting from Osaka to Kobe is only a short 25-minute train ride and it’s totally worth it! There are dozens of restaurants serving Kobe beef for lunch and dinner, and while you’ll pay for the privilege, I can assure you, it is well worth it.

We were very excited for our lunch in Kobe at Ishida.
We were very excited for our lunch in Kobe at Ishida.

Where to Eat Kobe Beef in Kobe, Japan

There are many restaurants in Kobe where you can have a fantastic Kobe beef. We chose a chain called Kobe Ishidaya that garners almost a full 5-star review on Trip Advisor. It is a relatively easy Kobe steak restaurant to find and it delivers on all fronts: atmosphere, experience and – most importantly – deliciousness.

Other great options are the small family-owned Steak Aoyama and the #1 rated steakhouse in Kobe, Mouriya Lin.

No matter which restaurant you choose, a reservation is highly advised, especially if you’re not planning to arrive right at 11:30am for lunch or 5pm for dinner. At any other time, it will be nearly impossible to get a seat. 

A perfect cut of A5 Kobe beef
A perfect cut of A5 Kobe beef (Photo by Savored Journeys)

What Beef to Order

In my opinion, the only feasible ordering option is the A5. A5 is the highest quality Kobe beef, and thus the most expensive, but hopefully you know that going in, so there isn’t any sticker shock that makes you change your mind and order the A4 in a moment of panic.

At Ishida, the A5 lunch set comes with 130 grams (4.5 ounces) of beef with appetizer, sides and dessert for $78 US. That’s pretty reasonable for the opportunity to try the best beef ever.

The food is all cooked on the teppenyaki grill in front of you, so it becomes a little like lunch and a show. What an amazing way to spend a lunch. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Watch it sizzle:

How the Beef is Served

As we ate our appetizer and salad, the chef started to prepare the meat by removing all the fat from around our piece of meat. He used the trimmings to cook the vegetables, then to flavor the fried rice, which is itself a masterpiece and well worth the extra couple dollars.

Only 5 slices! Oh but there were 5 more slices later on.
Only 5 slices! Oh but there were 5 more slices later on. (Photo by Savored Journeys)

We knew we were only getting 4.5 ounce of beef each, so we ever so slowly savored the first five slices with the condiments they’re served with.

On the plate with the beef are a pile of sea salt, rock salt, pepper and mustard to dip the beef in. A little goes a long way, but the right amount makes the flavor of the beef just explode in your mouth. Not only is it tremendously tender and rich, it’s absolutely bursting with flavor.

The beef was served with salt, pepper and fried garlic slices

The beef was served with salt, pepper and fried garlic slices (Photo by Savored Journeys)The fried rice was insanely good too. It had little bits of that rendered beef cooked into, like little morsels of beef bacon. It was very good, but we didn’t want to fill up on fried rice.

After it all came the fried rice that was like savory candy
After it all came the fried rice that was like savory candy (Photo by Savored Journeys)

After consuming all the beef they set out, we were definitely left wanting more. Luckily, they reserve a few more slices as a reward for when you start to feel like you might go crazy without just one more bite of that succulent beef. After you’ve eaten the grilled vegetables, you’re rewarded with a few more slices of heaven.

What to Expect from the Kobe Beef Experience

Here is what I have learned from my Kobe beef experience:

  1. I may never be able to forget that marbled piece of heaven melting one savored bite at a time in my mouth.
  2. I may never be able to forgive regular steak for requiring me to wield a knife to cut it, when Kobe steak succumbed so readily to my fork.
  3. I certainly will never be able to pay $70 for a regular steak that doesn’t even have an A anywhere in its pathetic grading system, when I know I could pay just $8 more and see stars when I chew.

I will always remember how amazing it was eating Kobe beef.

For more foodie things to do in Osaka, see our post on Dotonbori Street – one of the best street food destinations in the world. And if you’re planning to spend some time in Tokyo, we have a 3-day foodie itinerary that will help you tackle the many food possibilities in Tokyo.

One more thing — if you are planning to visit more places in Japan (like a round trip from Osaka to Tokyo), I highly recommend the Japan Rail Pass. Traveling in Japan can be expensive. The Rail Pass will save you a tremendous amount of time and money.

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The Essential Kobe Beef Experience in Kobe, Japan

3 thoughts on “The Essential Kobe Beef Experience in Kobe, Japan

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