You may have heard of Kobe beef, Matsusaka, and other names thrown around, with the grade A5 to make things even more confusing. In the end, for the average tourist, it’s all actually pretty similar! Ultimately, the budget and reputation of the restaurant will dictate the quality of the experience, as long as it actually says Kobe or Matsusaka beef, IN JAPAN.
- What is Wagyu?
- Where can I get it?
- How should it be cooked?
- How much is it?
Wagyu basically means Japanese cattle, so on its own means nothing really, when you’re looking for that special meat. The important part is which breed and where it was raised.
The famous breeds produce beef that contain a much higher content of fat, which produces a much lighter pink, or/and marbled look to the meat.
“Wagyu” meat doesn’t guarantee anything. There are 5 specific breeds of cow, and these names still aren’t important for the tourist looking for the famous meal. In fact, it’s the area in which it’s raised that gives it the name: Kobe or Matsusaka, (apparently also Omi, Yonezawa & Mishima but I haven’t tried these and found their names on Wikipedia lol which anyone can edit) that we are looking for.
When ready for consumption, the meat is inspected and given a grade for its fat content and yield, A5 being the highest. If a meat gets lower than this, it usually won’t be mentioned at all, even if it’s amazing.
Trying to get Kobe beef? The problem for the consumer is when farmers start cross breeding and start using other names. Outside of Japan, the regulation isn’t the same, so the term is used misleadingly, as the cows are breeded with less pure breeds, raising them differently, etc, and the name isn’t trademarked, so it’s easier to blatantly lie. In Japan, a restaurant pretending to have Kobe beef will get into huge trouble, so it’s usually trusted to have the real deal.
Outside of Japan, you’ll need to trust the vendor, there’s no regulation to stop them misleading you.
On the other hand, there is Wagyu beef out there that is amazing, just not as famous as Kobe. Farmers are still trying to breed and cross breed something new to surpass the famous names. Who knows what you may find!
When there’s a large budget, go to Japan, then look for a restaurant offering Matsusaka or Kobe, and you’ll see why they are so famous, due to arguably having the best taste…. In the world… The fat melts on the grill at a lower temperature to produce a rich yet not greasy bite that melts in the mouth.
How to eat it?
The first thing to thinking about is that the meat is incredibly fatty! The fat helps it cook, and on the grill gives it that crispy texture, much like bacon. Imagine a bacon steak, would that be as good? Well, a Kobe steak is available but it is going to a bit too much for the average person.
It’s highly recommended to eat it in Korean BBQ / Yakiniku style, which means preparing the meat in strips, over a charcoal grill, with a little sauce or salt for variation, with a side of rice, and some vegetables.
There are many real Wagyu restaurants that offer good quality meat but I can’t vouch for them until I try them myself.
Outside of Japan the risk is your own. At the Nobu in London, a Wagyu piece, which is neither Kobe or anything else recognisable, but says it’s A5 grade, costs £55 per 75g… Good luck!
If you want to try the real deal, unless you can find a restaurant you can 100% trust, do it when you’re in Japan.