Japanese Wagyu is Japanese beef of excellent quality from a few selected breeds. Based on a cut between the 6th and 7th rib, the meat is evaluated in terms of yield and fat marbling, and then assigned a grade. The highest grade is A5 and this is usually what’s served at most upscale restaurants in Tokyo.
I’ve heard some people use the terms “Kobe beef” and “Wagyu” interchangeably, but Kobe beef is just one of several Wagyu breeds. Kobe beef is therefore always Wagyu (and one of the most expensive types), but Wagyu, doesn’t have to be Kobe beef.
Talking about wagyu, you might have seen stuff like Australian wagyu and American wagyu at restaurants or even at your local grocery store. Even though some of it is ok, it’s not Japanese wagyu and the quality (and price) is often light years from the real Japanese deal.
Until recently, Japan didn’t export wagyu, but since 2014, wagyu, including Kobe beef, is now available outside of Japan at certain restaurants, where it’s usually more expensive than in Japan. High-grade wagyu doesn’t come cheap in Japan either, but even the most high-end restaurants often have special lunch offers, where you can get your wagyu fix at a reduced price.
The restaurant Gyu-An in Ginza is one of my old favorites. They specialize in Kobe beef, but they also serve other kinds of wagyu, so make sure you order Kobe beef, if that’s what you’re after. At lunch there are some really good set menu deals, and you can get a 150g Kobe beef grade A5 sirloin steak for 7500JPY. If you’re familiar with the ordinary Kobe beef price level, you’ll know that this is quite a bargain.
When I was in Tokyo earlier this year, I decided to spend my last yens on such a steak. I had forgotten how good it was, so I was completely overwhelmed, when I took the first bite. OMG it was good! I don’t usually say OMG because I don’t want to sound like a teenager, but this was no doubt an OMG experience. OMG! OMG! OMG! Each bite of that steak was packed with intense umami overload, and I could hear bells ringing and birds singing throughout the meal. Just writing about this makes me want to run to the airport and catch the next flight to Tokyo.
Gyu-An, 6-13-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061, Tel: 03-35420226, Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30-14:00 and 17:30-22:00, Sunday: closed, Holidays: 17:00-21:30, Address in Japanese: 牛庵, 〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座6-13-6