Review of Steak House Medium Rare Oriental Hotel
I finally set foot in Kobe to try the legendary Kobe beef.
Eating Kobe Beef in Kobe
I’ve always wanted to eat Kobe beef, after all it is widely cited as the best beef in the world. But if I was ever going to eat Kobe beef it would be in the city of Kobe and not a London steak house.
A Japanese friend recommended that I check out medium-rare steakhouse at the top of the Oriental Hotel in Kobe City. The restaurant is Teppanyaki style (serious Japanese style grilling with a personal chef and without the tricks) and overlooks Kobe Port from the 17th Floor above the hotel.
The restaurant has set menus where you choose your type of beef and how much you want. The “Beef Steak Lunch” starts at 4500 Yen (£30) for 80g of unbranded Wagyu and goes up to 13,500 Yen (£90) for 120g of Kobe beef. I ended up sharing 100g of A5 Kobe beef and 120g of Hida beef (a brand of Wagyu with strict certification criteria from the Gifu prefecture). The steaks were cut from the sirloin.
The Steak Lunch has five courses including a little appetiser, a salad, steak with vegetables, rice and soup and then dessert with tea. This is quite a difference from London and other cities where 100g of Kobe beef will cost over £100 without sides.
What is Kobe Beef?
Kobe Beef is a brand of Wagyu (Japanese beef). The beef comes from Japanese black cows that are raised and graded according to strict criteria in the region of Hyogo (the city of Kobe is the regional capital of Hyogo prefecture, which is why it’s called Kobe beef).
The cows must be fed a special diet of dried grasses and special mixes of soybean, corn and barley and are slaughtered between the age of 2.5 – 5 years.
Once slaughtered, the cows are graded according to marbling, the colour of the fat, the colour of the beef , the firmness and texture and yield of the beef . The beef with the highest grade (A5) will be marbled like salami, a medium-dark red, firm and with a very good texture. The strict criteria results in top quality beef. If you want to know more about Kobe you can read our feature on it here.
Eating Kobe Beef
After ordering our chef came to our table and cooked our steak in front of us. Watching the chef cook the beef took an incredible amount of patience. I just wanted it in my mouth. After cooking and resting the steak, the chef sliced the steak into cubes and served it, medium-rare.
I put the small cube into my mouth and bit into it. I bit straight through and juices flooded my mouth. It was unbelievably succulent. It’s almost like beef butter. I chewed once more and the steak dissolved, giving an overwhelming succulence. Dopamine flooded my body and I sat back with a deep sense of satisfaction.
I tried a piece of the Hida beef to compare it. It tasted very similar but wasn’t as succulent or as tender as the Kobe beef. I tried more of the Kobe beef, again it was delicious. I focused a bit more on the flavours. It was very succulent but it was difficult to taste anything but that fatty succulence. It was almost a trade-off, for that intense succulence I sacrificed delicious beefiness.
Want to try Kobe beef?
I highly recommend trying Kobe or other Wagyu beef, just be careful as there’s a lot of rogue restaurants riding on the brand. Real Wagyu beef is from Japan and real Kobe beef is from Kobe and it will cost a fair bit. If restaurant around the corner is selling Wagyu or Kobe beef, it’s best to check if it is the real thing. If you’re getting your Wagyu from Aldi, there’s no chance its real wagyu. The supermarkets beef is usually crossbred Wagyu fed on grass from countries like Australia or New Zealand. To find restaurants and authorised sellers of Kobe beef check out our feature on Kobe beef.
The best in the world?
This steak is fantastic and an absolute delight to eat. In fact I enjoyed it more than the other Wagyu brands including Matsusaka and Hida beef. But Kobe, like the other Wagyu brands, is designed to be as succulent and tender as possible. It just lacks that taste of beef.
My favourite steaks over the past 12 months have been from Britain and Spain. These steaks were not as succulent or as tender as the Kobe beef or the other Wagyu steaks but were tastier and beefier. Ultimately, whether Kobe beef is the best in the world really depends on who is eating it. In any case, please don’t die before you try it.
If you’re eating high end Wagyu like Kobe in Japan its best to go during lunch as the prices are heavily reduced. You should also book to avoid disappointment.
For more tips and advice make sure you sign up to our newsletter.