One of the Japanese delicacies that I wholly recommend is the Kobe Beef. Many people ask what my favourite Japanese food is, half-expecting me to say something like sushi. I used to think it was sushi, but this was before I went to Japan and introduced to a whole lot of other delicious stuff that should be savoured there.
You know how I seem to stumble into good restaurants, not having been there nor heard if the food is good? Well this has to happen without any expectations, much like gut instincts when it just comes out of nowhere.
So while in Kobe during one of my summer trips we decided to try out the famed cow meat at the Wakkoku Kitano Honten restaurant. The menu didn't seem to have anything less than Yen1000 which was considered quite a luxury for students coming from Niigata.
But precisely because I was living in Niigata then, I had more savings compared to a student from a larger city like, say Tokyo. So I allowed myself to splurge a bit. Or maybe just this once!
I chose the Kitano sirloin lunch course which cost a whopping Yen10,500!
I later learned that the teppanyaki style of cooking which is considered very affordable in Malaysia is actually quite the epitome of high-class dining in Japan. Since the chef literally cooks in front of you, it is like paying for a live performance while having a dedicated chef to cook your heart's desire. This was probably my one and only time having teppanyaki as it's not as common as what they have here.
It comes with red wine served in glass (I know that's obvious, but I'm just referring to how it's described in the menu) >.<
Appetizer of seafood jelly which had me captivated for awhile because the 雑魚* looked like they were immortalised in gelatine.
Next was smoked salmon which is an absolute favourite. Eaten on its own, sprinkled with lemon or in a cream cheese sandwich, I just wish there were more of it!
While I was slowly nibbling on the salmon in an effort to prolong the enjoyment, the chef in front of us took out slabs of the precious Kobe beef. I learned from Sasaki-san (my former landlord's bff) that the more intense the marbling, the more tender it would be. It means that the fat is evenly distributed into the meat, making it even juicier, flavourful and also expensive. Guess that's what massaging does to the Wagyu cow!
First main course : Wagyu meat with more fatty parts. To dip in salt, pepper, special Wakkoku sauce and fine grilled pieces of garlic.
I have to tell you even with the first dish I was already marveling at how soft the meat is that it really melts in your mouth. It doesn't taste anything like meat at all!
Second main course : More Wagyu meat, but with less fatty parts. If this was normal beef, I would have stopped at the first dish as I'm not a big fan of steaks. But with M&M's-type meat this is just pure pleasure!
To help digest all that meat, we were served salad in between.
Third main course : Wagyu meat with vege - white radish, tofu, asparagus, brinjal, carrot and 蒟蒻*. Even when cooking, the ingredients are arranged neatly on the pan.
Even though the chef had already used most of the meat, cut into tidy chunks of squares, he didn't waste the "leftovers". The fatty end bits were chopped up, mixed with rice for a final dish of fried rice.
Looks simple, almost unappetizing, but just like the rest of the dishes this too was delicious.
Ended the course meal with a cup of tea and a piece of Petit Gâteau chocolate.
If you notice, the ingredients are cooked in its original form, with very little flavouring safe for dips and dressing. Those who are brought up on spicyoilyfatty Malaysian food may think this to be too bland but true Japanese cuisine is to enjoy food in its natural flavour.
I give Wakkoku Kitano two thumbs up for the memorable experience and excellent service. Kobe beef is definitely something to be indulged even if only once. But of course if you can afford it, you can go for as many times as you like!
* 雑魚 【ざこ; じゃこ】 (n) small fish; small fry
蒟蒻 【こんにゃく; コンニャク】 (n) (uk) solidified jelly made from the rhizome of devil's tongue