I don’t know about you, but I am a “bucketlist” type of girl. I have wishlist for everything: travel destinations, Christmas gifts, life experiences, fitness goals. I think these goals, big or small keep us alive, motivated and determined. Big or small, trivial or significant, they give purpose to our life and inspire us to wake up and do everything we can to make that wish come true. And you know what’s the best part? To have someone who shares your bucketlist and partakes in all of your crazy endeavors. I have never been too big on food or eating out, but ever since Mr. B introduced me to the world of haute cuisine I instantly and voluntarily became his partner in crime and happily supply ideas for what has now become our culinary bucketlist.
Thus, like-minded couple as we are, we couldn’t have planned our mini vacation in Osaka without a trip to Kobe to sample the famous Kobe beef straight from the source. We made reservation at highly praised teppanyaki restaurant Ishida Honten. The restaurant has very pleasant atmosphere and modern sleek interior with one large counter where we were seated, as well as other smaller dining rooms equipped with the same iron griddle. You are assigned a chef who prepares food right in front of you giving a bit of information about the ingredients used. You can order a la carte or choose one of the set menus. We opted for Ishida Course with sirloin and tenderloin steaks (both A5 grade, BMS 8-9) to have a chance to taste both. The dinner started with a perfect trio of appetizers: seemingly unassuming lean chicken meat on the left surprised us with its sophisticated flavor profile. Basil pesto and mustard seeds lent a background of savoriness while pickled cabbage added a bit of acidity and crunchy textural contrast. Fish on the far right was fried to perfection and complimented by zesty onion and carrot salad which turned it into a delicious mouthful. Kobe wagyu roast beef was done equally memorable and set a great tone for the rest of the dinner.
For a light and refreshing second course we enjoyed a chilled egg custard which packed earthy flavor from shiitake mushrooms and herbs. The chef showed us our next course – foie gras – which he then carefully grilled to perfection with creamy inside and a light crust on the outside.
The apple and fig sauce complemented foie with tanginess giving a sublime taste to the dish. A simple yet beautiful green salad with delicious dressing followed as a palate cleanser more than anything else. As much as we enjoyed the previous courses we couldn’t wait to taste the crowning glory of the dinner – wagyu steak – which is typically displayed in advance for the customers to appreciate the infamous marbling. Where the best Western beef has white streaks running through it, Japanese wagyu is more fat than flesh, a slab of white with a splattering of pink. This is achieved primarily by keeping animals indoors for the most of their lives, feeding them an intensive high-grain diet. The tradition of giving them beer to drink is meant to increase their appetite in the hot summer months, while they may be massaged to alleviate muscle problems arising from limited space and exercise, rather than to improve their meat.
The added bonus of teppanyaki restaurants is that you can view the preparation of your dining experience as it unfolds in front of you. I loved observing the chef at work as he demonstrated his skills and cooking techniques. We eagerly watched his every movement, and observed how he treated the meat with utmost care, masterfully flipping and cutting it to produce perfectly medium rare pieces of steak. The steak was served with various dips, including rock salt, sea salt, black pepper and mustard, as well as traditional condiments like soy, yuzu and vinegar sauces. Quite honestly, wagyu is such a flavorful meat I always prefer to enjoy it in unadulterated simple way, with just the right amount of pepper and salt. The steak was an absolute delight, rich and buttery with that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture and scrumptious taste which is incomparable to any other type steak. Both sirloin and tenderloin were great, although I’d order tenderloin next time just because it was a bit richer yet not overpoweringly fatty.
Once our carnivorous appetite was thoroughly satisfied we moved to savoring a selection of vegetables which were grilled in the fat rendered from our previously seared beef. I loved that besides more popular choices like asparagus, mushrooms and lotus root, we also tried something very new and unique – Japanese potato and some sort of red root whose name I sadly don’t remember, although the taste of the latter seemed quite bland and equally unmemorable. Last but not least, it was time for yet another piece de resistance – fried rice – which is very commonly served as a final dinner course at Japanese restaurants.
It was fried, again, in a little bit of fat from the beef, and mixed with scrap pieces from the main cut of beef and served with seared bean sprouts on a side. As simple as it sounds, the flavors were sensational, and as full as I was at that point it still kept me coming for seconds.
We were both a tad too full the dessert and it was nice to see something light and refreshing: mango pudding which packed tropical flavors and a traditional wagashi (Japanese dessert) – mocha with strawberry filling. Outstanding hospitality and even better food at Ishida Honten made it one of our favorite Japanese restaurants together with Ukai-tei in Tokyo and Hafuu Honten in Kyoto.
As it was time to leave, we climbed down (at least it felt like climbing down) from our chairs feeling a bit heavier and wider (my abs have long said good-bye) yet incredibly happy that we successfully scratched “eat Kobe beef in Kobe” off our list.
What’s on your bucketlist? I’d love to hear!
Address: Palais Kitanozaka 1F, 4-7-11 Kanocho Chuo-Ku, Kobe | Phone: +81 78-599-5029
Reservation necessary, Staff speaks English.