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Curious about Kobe beef...

I'm curious about all the Kobe beef I am starting to see on menus, including Spago's for $110. I lived in Japan for a couple of years and while there I was given a gift pack of frozen Kobe beef from a friend which included 4 small thin steaks (about the size of your palm) and some thin sliced pieces for sukiyaki--maybe 2-3 pounds of meat. I have no idea how much it cost but my estimate would be about $500.

In Hawaii last year I ordered a Kobe beef hamburger for $14. When I ordered it I doubted it was real Kobe beef and when I tasted it, it was like regular ground beef. I never had ground Kobe beef in Japan, so I couldn't compare. However, the meat I had in Japan was so unique and incredible I am wondering how anyone can pull off advertising Kobe beef and not serve the real McCoy. It's like when I see crab as an ingredient and get Krab, although it's usually not priced $100. Has anyone ever tried Kobe steak in Japan and in LA for a comparison? Spago's price isn't bad if it really is Kobe beef.

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  1. There is domestic Kobe beef, obviously not the same, but is cattle raised in the same manner as Kobe Steer. Pricing is less, quality inferior. There probably isn't any rule about differentiating the domestic from true Japanese Kobe, the give away would be the quality and pricing.

    1. My family in Japan owns a cattle ranch that produces beef that eventaully becomes Kobe beef. When I lived there, my cousins sent me a care package of Kobe beef steaks every other month. It was heaven on Earth. The meat was tender and probably had fat than actual lean meat. When I came back to the States, I actually became a vegetarian for three years because I couldn't bring myself to eat the inferior meat here!

      Domestically produced Kobe-style beef is called Wagyu/Washugyu and like Veggietales says, it's definitely inferior to the real thing. Personally, I think that restaurants have an obligation to put "Kobe-style" on their menus rather than the very misleading "Kobe" if it is indeed the domestic product.

      As for all these trendy Kobe beef hamburgers, does the quality of the beef really matter when it's a hamburger? You can grind up any beef and throw some fat in to make a hamburger. In that form, it's very difficult to appreciate the marbling and tenderness that is the hallmark of true Kobe. IMHO.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kawaiikitty49

        Oh yeah, it is entirely possible that Spago's Kobe is the real deal as the USDA lifted its ban on real Kobe in December 2005. They allow the importation of boneless beef.

        And Granada Market on Sawtelle Blvd. (@Nebraska) has signs all over saying they sell Kobe beef. I have never purchased it so I don't know about the quality. Can't afford it here!

        1. re: kawaiikitty49

          Some restaurants such as Gyu-Kaku bill it as US Kobe beef.

        2. When I went to Mako (in Bev Hills) last week, the chef (Mako himself) explained to us that the 6-year ban on Kobe beef was lifted because Japan agreed to import American beef. According to him, the term "Kobe" beef has come to signify (in the US and maybe other places outside Japan) any beef exported from Japan. In Japan itself, beef has other names according to the region it is raised--it doesn't all come from the area of Kobe. Wagyu is the name (as poster stated above) of Japanese (or "Kobe") style cows raised domestically.

          I did have a small order of Kobe beef at Mako. We were pretty full, as it was the last course of a tasting menu. Maybe if we hadn't been we might have liked it more--not sure? Was it worth the $25/pp premium--neither of us thought so, but it was served sort of "sushi" style, nothing like steak as you'd have it in an American restaurant. It was a small portion, pan-sauteed (not rare) encased in a round of some kind of green vegetable. The high fat content made it quite greasy, and the taste was just sort of --- nothing special. I'd certainly like to try it again sometime but maybe elsewhere (altho' I love Mako's food--one of my faves in all of LA). On the other hand, he does make a Wagyu beef meatball which tastes sublime (and totally unlike American ground meat)--so go figure.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ThatPat

            At Urasawa we get Kobe (genuine) sliced just under 1/4 inch thick and served so that we cook it ourselves on HOT stones (along with ankimo slices) and also served so that we can cook it to our liking sukiyaki-style in a broth made from some stuff that Urawasa-san imports from Heaven. The meat is truly unlike the best steaks from Mastros and the rest. The thin cut makes it a melt-in-the-mouth bite. Haven't yet been to Cut, but my impression is that a 2 inch thick steak of any cut, black and bleu, would be pretty discusting. What do you folks think?

            1. re: ThatPat

              Long after we had our last meal of our Kobe beef gift pack we decided to go to our local butcher get some more. Through lots of hand signals we told him we couldn't afford Kobe beef but we wanted to try the next best meat. (That's like going from mega-expensive to incredibly expensive.) However, that meat was like a normal very good steak.

              Kobe beef is literally pink with fat that really does almost melt in your mouth. People often describe filet minon as "cuts like butter" but Kobe beef really does. As for the taste...it's delicate. I guess I liked the sensation of biting into it, the mouth feel and the taste. When we ate it, we sat quietly and savored each bite.

            2. the one at spago is the real deal, at 20 dollars per ounce, so a pound of it would cost you areound 360 or so.

              1. sorry not spago, i meant cut. the new puck joint/steakhouse.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kevin

                  It is Cut that sells it at $20 an ounce. Cut is Puck's