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Produced with strict quality control, Kobe beef, a type of the famous wagyu beef of Japan, is a much-coveted product from Japan that is recognized worldwide for its taste and price. Here is everything you need to know about Japan’s famous Kobe beef and tasting it for yourself.
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Kobe, a type of Japanese Wagyu, is the prized beef of Hyogo Prefecture, named after Kobe, one of the major cities in the prefecture. It is actually beef that comes from the breed of a precious cattle, Tajima-gyu, nurtured with utmost care.
Wagyu, which means Japanese cow, is coveted around the world for its high quality beef. The nation has secured laws ensuring strict and proper nourishment of the cattle, yielding quality-produced meat with a nobel prize cost and taste. Wagyu has given birth to four main breeds - Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled cattle. The bovines are raised exceptionally in each locale and by distinctive ranchers, sometimes eventually sold with a price forty times higher than that of American cattle. These cattle are globally remarkable for its delicate, sterling, and amazing quality beef that even surpasses the guidelines set for a substantial production. They are raised in a stress-free environment, yielding a pleasant scent and appearance, tenderness, and high-grade fat.
※ Business Insider, "The rarest steak in the world can cost over $300. Here's why wagyu beef is so expensive."
Knowing how expensive Wagyu is, there are myths that cows are pampered, massaged, and even made to drink beer to ensure the quality, but it has been proven false. The cows are fed with a high concentrate of fiber from rice, wheat, or hay. No classical music, no beer, no massage at all - although the end result quality may make you inclined to believe it!
The price tag of the Wagyu beef is evident in just one look to those who know their meats. There are a few sorts of cattle in Japan bred to become a national treasure. Those cattle are fostered carefully, ensuring good produce of muscle and a high percentage of fat. To be more specific, it is the fat, braided in the muscle, that gives the unmistakable, picture-perfect appearance and texture that feels like it is actually softening in your mouth.
Perfectly raised in the Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe beef became the foremost popular brand of Wagyu in the nation, with its brand advancing throughout the globe. And if you thought wagyu beef has strict criteria to be considered wagyu, Kobe beef criteria is even more strict. According to the Kobe Beef Tourist Association, Kobe beef are Tajima cattle that have met the strictest of conditions, including that every part of the process, from the raising to the slaughter, must be done in Hyogo Prefecture. They must meet the standards for the Quality Grade (more on that below), be within a certain weight, can only be raised by certified farmers, and so on. No wonder Kobe beef is prized for its unparalleled taste and marbling texture and tenderness. In fact, it’s been designated as a Geographic Indication product representing a quality product from a certain region (in this case, Hyogo Prefecture), and all restaurants and retailers must have express permission from the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association in order to handle the sales of Kobe Beef in order to prevent false claims being made.
※Kobe Beef Tourist Association, ”Trivia about Kobe Beef”
Wagyu beef, and therefore Kobe beef too, is actually graded according to its quality. So how is it graded? The quality of wagyu beef is graded on a scale of 1 to 5 for fat content with 5 being the highest, and A-C for yield grade, A being the highest. Kobe beef is expected to be classified as A or B, and 4 or 5 for quality grade. Even the marbling grade, called BMS, must fall between 6 and 12 on a 1 to 12 scale. While A5 is the prized grading, how delicious it is to you personally depends on how fatty you would like your meat. The cost often correlates to the grading and amount.
※Kobe Beef Tourist Association, ”Trivia about Kobe Beef”
The highest classification of Kobe beef, the best of the best. Many ranchers aim to achieve this premium level of rareness and authenticity. These extravagant cattle have extraordinary figurines of fatty tissues, providing its well-blended juicy umami flavors.
Testimonials say that this grade is slightly similar to A5, but has a little less percentage of fat deposits and is not as full-flavored as A5 since it offers a beefier taste. However, for those that don’t like their meat as fatty, this is a great alternative and more affordable as well.
B4 and B5 grade Kobe beef is also available, and again, more affordable and perhaps better for a more casual experience. But if you’re trying Kobe beef for the first time in your life, investing in the A5 experience makes that much of a difference. Also checking for the grading is very important because some shops will claim to serve Kobe beef but it wouldn’t actually qualify in the strictest criteria, so make sure to check before choosing your restaurant!
Wagyu beef is evaluated on the two primary components mentioned above. The higher the review, the higher the cost. It also depends on how much you have and how you have it cooked as well. A steak dinner with Kobe beef as the main dish will usually cost much more than small cuts on the side. An authentic Kobe beef meal can amount to 200 US dollars, and the estimated price for a pound of Kobe steak is 110 US dollars overseas. Of course, the fact that it has to be exported and the quantities are limited - with only 3000 to 5000 cows actually making the criteria to be classified as Kobe beef every year, and only a select percentage available for exports drive up the prices. Inside the city of Kobe, restaurants offer a beef lunch for an affordable price, starting at around 2500 yen for lunch, around 5000 yen for dinner, but of course can go up to really high prices for the best quality and quantities.
※ Roka Akor Restaurants, "Wagyu Beef vs Kobe Beef: What’s the Difference?" ※ Cable News Network Money, "The world's priciest foods" ※ Kobe Beef, “Criteria for Kobe Beef”
Here are some of the restaurants around the city where you can enjoy your Kobe meal, ranging from relatively affordable to extravagant:
All of the Kobe beef at this restaurant is A5-grade, starting at around 6,600 yen for 130 grams. You can also get other types of wagyu as well. Each meal is cooked to order and they offer an excellent selection of drinks to pair with your steak. Meriken Hatoba, 5 minutes from Motomachi Station, fulfills the visitors with their scrumptious meat which includes some condiments to enhance the taste.
※ Meriken Hatoba, "Menu"
Some people call it the best restaurant serving Kobe steak. There are several meal courses being offered at Aoyama, but the featured dish on the menu is the ‘’Aoyama Steak Course’’ with a price of 6500 yen. You get 130 grams of delicious Kobe beef in addition to a complete meal with a starter, soup and salad and dessert. Steak Aoyama is also found near Motomachi Station like Meriken Hatoba above.
※ Steak Aoyama, "Menu"
Kobe Gyu Takakura
Just a 3-minute walk from Sannomiya Station is a restaurant that serves fine, premium Kobe beef. A cut of beef will serve you a cost ranging from 2,500 to a whopping 64,500 yen, which will depend on the quality and amount you want. Moreover, you will be given an option to upgrade it to a course meal, or a set with several side dishes. Quite a dime, but hey, it is worth it!
※ Kobe Beef Specialty Store Kisshoyoshi, "Kobe Beef Takakura"
Kobe Harborland Sandaya
A superior Kobe beef place with each serving carefully oriented in a teppanyaki style. The chef handles the beef carefully to guarantee the best taste to be served for visitors and you can have it cooked to your preference. Just a 10-minute walk from Kobe Station, people will surely enjoy a hearty, dinner course meal, with a price of 6,500 yen, and the beautiful view of Kobe Harbor.
※ Kobe Sandaya, "Sandaya Kobe Harborland"
Kobe Steak Restaurant Mouriya
Mouriya is a restaurant with a long history serving fine Kobe beef. Each dish is incredibly tasty and makes sure that it satisfies the guests, with a meal price that ranges from 5,000 to 20,000 yen. The Kobe beef rump steak sets are more affordable than the A5 Kobe beef steak sets - so it depends on your preference and how much you want to dish out for quality. But it’s delicious Kobe beef all the same! It takes an 8-minute walk from Motomachi Station to reach the place.
※ Kobe Steak Restaurant Mouriya, "Menu"
Definitely make reservations in advance to ensure your spot as these restaurants are very popular and some of them very small with few seats. For more options, you can check out the Official Restaurant Guide by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association, ensuring that you have an authentic experience.
The highest quality Wagyu beef is expensive but world-class. People are often curious about what an actual gold would taste like, and these cattle, with the highest levels of nourishment and standards, could feed the interest of the wanderers with utmost satisfaction of its taste, texture, and appearance. Kobe beef is one of a kind, that even inhabitants cultivate beliefs as to why such beef is a big deal globally. When you visit Japan, the taste is worth a try!
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