Don’t be fooled if you think that wagyu is just another slab of beef on your plate. Most people would think that it’s just another cut in everyone’s old time favorite but it’s more than that. Literally translated as Japanese cow, wagyu has been making tremendous waves in the sea of beautiful dishes in Japan. Like ramen and sushi which dominated – and still dominates – most of the menus in restaurants in the country, wagyu is very much considered as the next big thing. It’s one of the most celebrated dishes and ingredient and there’s really no going back to your regular beef once you’ve tasted it. But what it’s wagyu and why is it popular?
Wagyu isn’t just a piece of meat waiting to be cooked and presented. It’s mostly what Japan presents to the world: a rich tradition, a high-quality ingredient, and the assurance you’ve had only the best thing out there. Raising your own cattle to produce wagyu has only been a recent tradition in the country and it only has one goal to present to the world: supreme quality. It’s considered the caviar of meat, easily melts in your tongue like butter. But a long time ago, because of the strong teachings of Buddhism, eating meat was banned and considered bad luck. Sometime during the Meiji period, changes happened and Japanese people started adapting Western habits. The economic situation soared high and most people can finally afford to buy beef for their families. There are four breeds of wagyu which are: kuroge washu (Japanese black), akage washu (Japanese brown), mukaku washu (Japanese polled), and nihon tankaku washu (Japanese shorthorn). Kuroge washu is considered the main breed of wagyu, which sums up 90% of all the fattened cattle in the country. And because of its undisputed quality, there were a lot of myths about raising cattle to produce wagyu. Some say cattle owners let their cattle listen to classical music, some let their cattle drink beer, and of course, the practice of massaging the cattle. While all of this remains a myth, one thing’s for sure, nothing beats a nice serving of wagyu on your plate.
Steak isn’t the only way to prepare wagyu. You can enjoy it on a stick, disguised as one of your favorite yakiniku, in big pots of shabu-shabu and sukiyaki, hamburgers, or teppanyaki. It’s almost versatile and people still go crazy when they take their first bite of wagyu. This delicious piece of meat will only evolve in the next coming years but will give you the same supreme quality it has years ago.
Best Places to find Wagyu in Tokyo
You can find great servings of wagyu all over the Tokyo and most restaurants will probably claim that they have the best piece of meat in the city. But it almost doesn’t matter whether you have it grilled, in boiling delicious broth, or in a bun, wagyu is the magic waiting to happen in your mouth. It melts like butter and you’ll look for it again once you’ve tasted it. Curated below are the five best places to go to when you’re craving supreme quality of beef.
Considered the perfect yakiniku place, SATO Burian (3-44-2 Asagayaminami Suginami Tokyo) is the place to go. Perfectly sliced and marinated, their beef is to die for. Most of its patrons say that they had the best grilling experience here. Their wagyu beef slices come in a dipping sauce or if you like it simple, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper and you’re good to go. It’s recommended to pair your wagyu beef with a light green salad, a small serving of stew, and a scoop of lemon sorbet to cool everything down. It’s the perfect place for big groups. Reservations are a must for it gets crowded even weekdays.
Nihonbashi Iseju (14-9 Nihonbashikodenmacho Chuo Tokyo) is known for serving one of the best sukiyaki dishes in the country. The restaurant has been up and running since the Meiji period and you can never go wrong with their exquisite menu. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll instantly notice the vibrant atmosphere and gives you the feeling that you’re in the Meiji period. Everything is prepared fresh and their serving of wagyu in their sukiyaki is top-notch. After finishing a bowl, you’ll probably have seconds or maybe thirds of that delicious wagyu in their sukiyaki.
If you’re craving for some shabu-shabu, Imafuku (1-12-19 Shirokane Minato Tokyo) got you covered. A big bullhead in front of the building will greet you and once inside, you’ll probably won’t want to get out because of the delicious smell lingering around. This one-star Michelin restaurant proves that they have the best shabu-shabu in the city and it never fails to deliver the supreme quality of this dish to their guests. You can also watch as the chef slices your beef before serving it to you.
Thick and easy to chew on with just the right amount of gravy, Vacca Rossa (6-4-11 Akasaka Minato Tokyo) offers glorious slices of wagyu beef steaks to its guests. Buttery and almost melts in your mouth, they serve their wagyu beef in a mass of 4cm with their signature gravy. The flavor of meat proves excellent. If you like steaks and craves for it, then this restaurant is the one for you.
Blacows (2-11-9 Ebisunishi Shibuya Tokyo) is a classic burger joint that will give you the best burger experience in the city. They only use fresh and top quality ingredients, which of course is a 100% fresh kuroge wagyu beef. Ground manually by hand, they serve it up with their signature yakiniku sauce and with fresh toppings to choose from. But if you like it simple yet satisfying, some lettuces and tomatoes will do the trick. These tasty and big burgers go well with fries and your taste buds will thank you for having the best burger ever.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.