The joy of having visitors in Japan is that you get to eat your way through Japan with them… it’s really your duty, after all. I mean, your visitor has traveled for hours possibly days to come see you, the least you can do is put that healthy eating resolution on hold (again) and spend your days shoveling bacon and cheese okonomiyaki and draft beer into your mouth (again)… you know, to show them the way things are really done around here. God forbid they leave the country thinking everyone eats sashimi and boiled seaweed all day!
My dad is in town this week, which means I not only get to eat my way through Japan (again) but I also get to eat all those things I absolutely must eat before leaving Japan at the end of the month. The list of things I absolutely must eat (again) before leaving Japan (again) is long, but at the top of the list is Kobe beef.
Ahh, Kobe beef… worth every bit of hype, every overpriced bite and every egotistical basketball star named after it. At one hundred dollars a plate, Kobe beef is a splurge that one does not indulge in lightly. Well, unless you’re me and you’re all about indulging in splurges lightly… because, hey, you deserve it, gosh darnit. (Not that you have any clue what you’ve actually done to deserve it… but you’re certain there was something you did at some point in your life to deserve the opportunity to eat a piece of cow that costs more than your couch).
Almost as wonderful as the melt-in-your-mouth rich, fatty goodness of Kobe beef is the elaborate ceremony of preparation and presentation that goes along with it.
We went to Mouriya in downtown Sannomiya, where the beef is cooked in front of you on a teppanyaki-style iron grill. Prior to our dinner in Kobe, we’d spent a busy day of sight-seeing in Himeji and Kobe so we were pretty exhausted by the time we settled into our seats at the restaurant and put on our beef-eating bibs (yes, you do, in fact, get a bib to eat Kobe beef.. after all, you wouldn’t want to lose a single fatty morsel of your meal to your poor undeserving sweater).
Seeing as we were too exhausted to talk, it’s a good thing we could stare numbly at the chef as he ceremoniously prepared each piece of our meal.
Before the beef even hits the iron plate, the chef spent ten minutes sauteing waver-thin slices of garlic, which he meticulously flipped one by one until the pieces were golden and crispy and ready to be heaped on to our plate.
With garlic chips in place, the chef then started in on our beef and grilled vegetables.
Mind you, your entire one-hundred-dollar hunk of Kobe beef is not all cooked and served to you at once. Instead, the beef is portioned off into smaller chunks and cooked gradually so you’re constantly receiving morsels of beef along with cooked vegetables.
I suppose this is to help you savor the experience… an experience you may never have again (unless you’re like me and you’re all about having once-in-a-lifetime experiences about every two to three months).
After the chef cooked up all the meat and vegetables (and I managed to shovel all the pieces into my face without dribbling so much as lotus root on my bib), the chef slapped a pile of sauteed fat on to each of our plates.
I suppose that sounds gross to many of you readers out there.
Heck, it sounds kind of gross to me now that I’m reading it.
But remember this is not just any fat, it’s Kobe Beef Fat.
This Fat was massaged daily by farmhands and fed beer.
This Fat has a basketball star named after it.
This Fat is the splurge-of-your-lifetime (well, unless you’re like me… in that case, This Fat is the splurge-of-your-Tuesday).
This Fat is the reason why you will never be able to afford children (and if you do somehow end up having kids, you’ll have to tell them they can’t have ballet lessons and new shoes because of This Fat).
So it’s not gross fat at all, but This Fat.
And This Fat tastes pretty dang amazing!