Japan is a foodie heaven. No other country that we’ve seen offers the vast range of eye popping treats that Japan has. I’ve happily devoured plenty of platefuls of great sashimi and slurped bowls of ramen but the Aussie steak lover in me had to try Japan’s world famous Wagyu beef.
Fortunately for us our shinkansen (bullet train) connections kept wanting us to change in Kobe – home of arguably the world’s best beef. We jumped off the train on route between Osaka and Kyoto – found the super convenient giant touch card operated lockers in the train station – and headed off to lunch (well, we first had to drop Lila off somewhere more vegetarian friendly, somehow it just didn’t seem like a restaurant serving only beef would offer her many lunch choices).
We tried to have the hotel concierge in Osaka book us three seats at several of the top rated Kobe restaurants in town but all were full or refused to take bookings, even for an 11am early lunch slot. I tried my luck and Facebook messaged my favourite choice, a family run restaurant called Aoyama which had already rejected the concierge’s attempt to book. I was shocked (and pretty happy) when they wrote straight back confirming the booking! Looking back I have to question if the concierge did actually try, had a communication breakdown or (most likely I think) that they don’t generally take bookings and my Facebook tact was so creative they gave me a spot.
The tiny restaurant seats eight people around a counter. The husband and wife run the front of house (we later found out they had owned the restaurant since 1963 and still used the original stainless steel cook top!) while the fairly cheeky chef entertains the guests while cooking in front of you.
We all went for a lunch set menu with the higher grade beef that is, beef actually from Kobe, which included creamy potato soup (delish), veg, choice of sirloin or fillet and tea/coffee (about $60 each with a glass of wine – lunch time offers much better value than dinner). Jen and I got one of each and shared and are probably still debating which was better a month later.
The beef was extraordinary, the service and atmosphere unique and truly special. We loved the fine details such as how the soup was made from an old family recipe and how they import Bolivian salt and the wife crushes it using mortar and pestle. All three of us left almost emotional at having shared the experience.
For what it’s worth, Kobe itself did not seem to have much appeal at all. A large city that (at least from the small part we saw) lacked the character and charm of all other Japanese cities we visited. We were glad not to stay and see no reason why you need to with the convenience of the lockers at the station, which vary in size and can fit most medium and large luggage. Sorry Kobe I didn’t love you I just used you for your steak.