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Melbourne, VIC

B E E F  I N  J A P A N

Les Petites Choses


Kelven Ng

Japan really is the country for foodies. When you think of Japan, most would automatically think of sushi as their first thought but to think that that is the only cuisine they do well would be a misnomer. There is something about the beef in Japan. I have never seen so much marbling in my life. You can instantly tell that the meat will be succulent and tasty just by looking at it. You almost think that there is no way you could screw this up because it looks that good. While we did not wander into Kobe on this trip, we did try to find some good beef. Our first meal with a focus on beef was in Osaka at a place called, Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku.

Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku, Osaka

This was one restaurant that we did not plan on eating in (like so many of the other meals we had in Japan). We simply wandered the old streets of Osaka and came across this one. A classy yakiniku joint along the cobblestone street that was clean but lit in a way that reminded you of movies of olden day Japan where lanterns lit the way, Matsuzakagyu specializes in Matsusaka beef (a form of wagyu). We were seated in our private booth which had drapes to separate you from the rest of the restaurant. There are English speaking waiters and waitresses and in any case, they are very polite and helpful.

We settled for the beef platter which worked out to be around $120-130 USD per person. For that price, you get a variety of cuts of beef, each with a different form and varying marbling. Like any yakiniku, the food is grilled at your table. The cuts of meat varied and were written in Japanese as you can see below but all tasted delicious. You can use the house sauce as well but the meat tasted great on its own. The beef was tender and flavourful. Was it the best steak I’ve had in my life? Probably not but it was pretty close. The next place we went to though, took that prize.

Yoroniku, Tokyo

Yoroniku is another yakiniku in Japan but this is one that we had researched and made reservations for. From reading several blogs and reviews, Yoroniku was identified by a few to be one of the best dining experiences they had in Japan so we knew we had to experience this ourselves. Unfortunately… the only reservation time they had open was at 10:30pm. That was fine by us though as we timed our hunger so that we would be hungry again by the time our table came up (i.e. ramen in Shibuya for dinner at 6pm). This place was a little hard to find (as are lots of restaurants in Tokyo) as it was quite literally only identifiable by a single lamp. Even our taxi driver was wondering where he was dropping us off.

When we got in, we were surprised that this was a smoking restaurant but such is Japan in some cases. We’re not smokers and we don’t like the smell but it is part of their dining culture in izakaya’s and the like so it is just something we had to deal with. We once again ordered the fixed price menu of $70 USD per person which comes with 10 different dishes. The difference here though is that a server is assigned to cook the beef for you. Might as well because they know exactly how it is done. They literally let the beef sit for no longer than 2 seconds in some cases! The beef came in varying sizes and cuts but I tell you, I haven’t seen beef look this good before. Starting with the perfectly seasoned raw beef tar tar, we eventually made our way to the thin cuts of beef. The beef was cut so thin, the cook called it “silk”. It was marbled thoroughly as you would expect but it was marinated as well. The beef was actually sweet and savoury at the same time and just melted in your mouth. The house sauce was delicious and the cook tells you how to eat each slice (with sauce, with no sauce, with lemon, etc). One of the more memorable pieces was a thin, thin cut of beautiful beef that was cooked then mixed with a raw egg yolk. It sounds risky but it was incredible. We also had the sirloin steak but honestly, the thinner slices were the highlights.

By the time the cook said that it was the last meat dish, I was sad. For me, this was the best beef that I have ever had – which is saying a lot because I love steak. I was full but almost did not want the goodness to end. Yoroniku easily ranks up there as one of the top three meals we had in Japan (better than Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku in Osaka).