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Best steak in Tokyo?

My wife and I are traveling in Japan; after a week in Tokyo, we're headed down to Kyushu and will be back in Tokyo in about a week. We've been using some of your suggestions and loving them. The one thing we haven't been able to figure out is the best place to have a blow-out steak in Tokyo--we're willing to pay top-dollar, but we don't want to feel ripped off. We took a look at New York Grill and we're suspicious; it seemed to have tourist trap written all over it (empty at 7:30pm on a weeknight, great views, insane prices), and we're afraid we'd be disappointed with it. We want excellent wagyu beef (Kobe or otherwise), prepared perfectly, but we don't need frills like New York Grill's view or anything. Zagat suggests a chain called Jumbo, but that sounds a little weird to us. We'd appreciate any suggestions/guidance you can offer, a.s.a.p. Thanks!

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  1. If you are willing to pay top-dollar, this place Aragawa at Shinbashi is ranked as one of the most expensive restaurants in the world by Forbes magazine. It is a steak kaiseki house, minimum budget Yen 40k per person. I personally have not tried it, and I don't think it has been reviewed in Chowhound before. If you do go there, will appreciate if you would post a review here.

    For personal experience, I have been to a Japanese steak house called Makoto at Nihonbashi. One problem there is there is no English menu and there is nobody there that speaks English (at least 2 years ago). And it is in a very narrow alley where even the taxi driver has a hard time finding it too. Minimum ambience, very good steak but not much else (but that may be due to communication problem). Budget around Yen 10k per person, if I recall correctly.

    I have tried very good steak at three other places but they are not pure steak houses. One is in Ryugin and the other at Ariona de Takazawa; both are more like modern contemporary Japanese fusion food, serving tasting menu with 6-9 items where the steak is usually served at the end. Both are reviewed here before, so you can just type on the search function above. The third one is Maimon, more of an oysters+yakitori place, very modern and stylish, very good for dating spot and the steak there is pretty good too. http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g398512/

    1 Reply
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Oh, I forgot to add one more. This place called Dons de la Nature at Ginza has been on my radar screen but have never been there before too. Minimum order is 400 grams so it is big portion. Again, if you do go there, please post a review here as it has never been reviewed in Chowhound.

      http://www.dons-nature.jp/3.html

    2. JUMBO is actually a great yakiniku place (http://www.y-jumbo.com), not really a steak house. they have graded cuts of meat and sometimes run out of the better cuts very early; also reservations are recommended. unfortunately there are no english menus (menus have some pics) and the staff only speaks a little bit - to get the best experience (and the best cuts) i definitely suggest going with someone who reads/speaks japanese.

      1 Reply
      1. re: exPat727

        In our experience, there are two wait staff there that seem to communicate in English reasonably well, but don't worry, just tell them "omakase" and you'll be well take care of :-)

      2. Oak Door has excellent steaks, but their wine is really a rip-off, and service isn't that great.

        Beacon (http://www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/rest... ) is good value for money; it's mostly US beef but they have some wagyu cuts. Service can be spotty, but it's generally a good experience, and they have a nice wine list.

        1. Jumbo is AMAZING :-) I know, I know, we were equally suspicious when we first heard the name but we went upon the rec of a local Japanese friend, and since then, we go there at least once (sometimes even twice, haha) every time we are in Tokyo. We've even brought other local Japanese friends there and they have all raved about it. The beef there is just plain amazing, but you have to order the omakase, or else you will not get the good cuts which are not on the menu (that is unless you can read the japanese writing on the chalkboard by the entrance which lists the special cuts of the day)

          Jumbo, however, is not steak, but yakiniku, literally grilled meat, but is actually a variety of Japanese style Korean grilled meat. The same meat supplier to Jumbo also owns a steakhouse though, but we have not yet tried it, think it's called Mizawa... oh, and don't miss the Hokkaido soft cream for dessert :-)

          1. DONS DE LA NATURE is easily the best steak house I have been to in Tokyo, and I have been to very many as I am totally in love with Japanese beef and live in Tokyo long term. There are not enough superlatives to describe the meat. It is expensive, but I think you get your money's worth because you will not forget the steaks, ever! At the beginning of the meal, the waiter comes to your table and shows you three pieces of meat of maybe 6 pounds each (two sirloins and one fillet, the fillet and one of the sirloins comes from the same cow, the other sirloin is from a different region). You pick your steak and tell him how big a piece you want. The minimum amount you can select is slightly less than a pound, so many people just share one steak, although I would strongly recommend you take the minimum amount of one of the sirloins and the fillet, and share both as the different taste sensations are fantastic. I can't recommed the place highly enough.

            BTW, the New York Bar & Grill you mention is not bad. Given the amount of amazing steak places in Tokyo, I would not necessarily pick it for steak, but the quality of the beef you get there is actually extremely good.

            30 Replies
            1. re: Asomaniac

              Hi Asomaniac,

              Thanks for the recommendation! :) If I may ask, what cuts of beef does Dons De La Nature usually carry? Matsuzawa? Kobe?

              Thanks~

              1. re: exilekiss

                Exilekiss,

                They are using kuroge-wagyu. Beef from Kagoshima, Matsuzaka and Kobe are all classified as such, so they might use beef from any of those, whichever they feel is appropriate at the time.

                All this talk of beef has made me incredibly hungry. I am now going to call the restaurant to see if I can get a place for tonight. And will need to pursuade my wife that she wants steak. Good thing about Dons de la Nature: tends to be very easy to book, despite the Michelin star.

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  Thanks Asomaniac. :)

                  I'll definitely have to try this place on my next visit. Last question:

                  * Do you know (or do they tell you) the Grade of the Kuroge Wagyu you're getting? (e.g., true "A5" Max Rating, etc.)

                  I know most restaurants don't tell (or the servers don't know), but some restaurants in Japan pride themselves on being able to serve A5-rated Wagyu.

                  (And on a side note: Have you tried A5 Wagyu, and still think Dons is better? :)

                  Thanks!

                  1. re: exilekiss

                    Hi exilekiss:

                    can you tell us the name of the restaurants in Japan that serve A5-rated Wagyu?

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      Hi FourSeasons,

                      I don't know of any that are well-reviewed. :( That's why I was asking. When I first found out about A5-rated Wagyu last year, I was so excited and wanted to try some places on my last Japan Trip, but never got to (but I had Ryugin, Mizutani, excellent Ramen at Menya Kissou, etc. (^_~)). But here are some links to A5-rated Wagyu and some random Yahoo Japan results:

                      Info:
                      http://www.globalchefs.com/article/cu...
                      http://www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/hayato/...

                      Some random search results:
                      * Gyuzantei
                      http://www.gyuzantei.com/

                      * This place is in Akihabara and got average reviews (2) so far on Tabelog:
                      http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a671701/

                      * Shichirinya (Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
                      )This place comes up, but seems kind of touristy?
                      http://www.hotpepper.jp/A_20100/strJ0...

                      Definitely curious if anyone's tried A5 Wagyu and if it's worth it. :)

                      Let me know if you try any FourSeasons. Doumo! (^_^)

                    2. re: exilekiss

                      Hi exilekiss

                      I am afraid I have to plead ignorance: I don't know what grade the beef was, and I don't know whether I have ever eaten A5 wagyu.

                      As to your second question, the steaks at Dons de la Nature were not only the best I have ever had in Tokyo, but probably also anywhere, I guess that if I have eaten A5 wagyu before, Dons was better (assuming Dons itself is not A5)..! Having said that, many years ago I had a perversely good steak in Osaka, possibly better than at Dons, but I just don't remember the name of the restaurant.

                      1. re: exilekiss

                        Hi exilekiss,

                        First, thank you so much for so many of your posts regarding Japanese restaurants. My girlfriend and I were in Japan in May and we had an opportunity to track down Menya Kissou for lunch after an early sushi breakfast in Tskiji Market. Definitely the best ramen on the planet. Your comments were spot on.

                        Turning to steakhouses, we had an opportunity to sample incredible cuts of Wagyu beef at Gekkou Kamen Steakhouse in Osaka. It was an amazing experience and the price of the meal was quite reasonable (10000 yen per person). Sadly, having tasted a small piece of heaven makes it very difficult to ever go back to western style steaks.

                        In case anyone wants to see A4 and A5 cuts, the following link goes to a useful comparison table, compliments of a great meat store in Vancouver, Canada: http://www.nikuya.ca/products/our_vie...

                        Cheers.

                        1. re: dachowmonkey

                          Hi dachowmonkey,

                          Glad you were able to try the *amazing* Ramen at Menya Kissou! I'm drooling just thinking about it; and really sad that So Cal's Ramen scene is absolutely pathetic compared to even average places in Tokyo. :(

                          Thank you for the info on Gekkou Kamen Steakhouse. Do you happen to have an address or URL?

                          1. re: exilekiss

                            Just wanted to thank y'all for the recommendation on Menya Kissou. I was able to go this afternoon for lunch and it was nothing short of AMAZING! The establishment opened at 11:30AM. I arrrived at 11:45AM and had a ~30 minute wait. The menu was in Japanese only and so I simply requested Ramen. What I got was incredible! Soba noodles with tender pork chunk/slices, seaweed and mushrooms (i think.) The broth was INCREDIBLE, the noodles the best I have ever had.

                  2. re: Asomaniac

                    Yikes, I just checked the prices and you're right. It is expensive!
                    http://dons-nature.jp/3.html

                    Perhaps next time bonuses come around!

                    1. re: Asomaniac

                      Hi Asomaniac:

                      I think you are the luckiest person. You are always a few steps ahead to try the restaurants that are on my radar screen. Thanks for the review; I think I would definitely visit Dons on my next trip.

                      But just 2 more questions: which region did Dons select their beef? How do you compare the steak of Dons vs the ones you tried at Ryugin and Takazawa?

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        FourSeasons,

                        They do not limit themselves to one particular kind of beef, it can be any of Kagoshima, Matsuzaka or Kobe.

                        How do those steaks compare to those at Ryugin and Aronia? They were a lot better than at Aronia. They are harder to compare to the steak at Ryugin, because it is to an extent a little like comparing apples and oranges as the method of preparation at Ryugin (vacuum etc) is so different. However, ignoring that, if I comment purely on my eating pleasure, I would have to say I preferred Dons de la Nature (while I also loved the Ryugin steak).

                        I also liked the starters - very good fish starters, which with a half bottle of Corton-Charlemagne were absolutely divine. Then a half bottle of some wonderful Bordeaux with the steaks, and complete bliss is guaranteed. Do bear in mind though that it is very expensive. I am normally quite relaxed about prices as a great meal is worth paying a bit extra, but paying that much money for a piece of meat even made me flinch.

                        1. re: Asomaniac

                          You must be a wine lover, all your food reviews came with pairing of the wine as well.

                          We have before talked about Ryugin, Aronia, Aso, Koju and now Dons. Any new discovery of a "must go" place recently?

                          1. re: FourSeasons

                            Hi Fourseasons,

                            Yes, I am - sadly for my bank balance - quite wine-obsessed. Over the course of the last two years, wine has actually overtaken food in terms of importance and I often pick a restaurant based on the wine list rather than the food. I am hoping that red wine really does have the health benefits you sometimes read about, otherwise things are not looking good for my liver. It does not help that my wife is the same (and happens to be an expert on wine regions I am less familiar with, so we complement each other).

                            Recent must-gos? Not a lot, partially because I have been a little lazy, opting to re-visit places I knew rather than exploring the way I should. If you are around in winter, I recommend Cogito, which does incredible venison freshly shot by the owner-chef on his trips to Hokkaido. They also have one of the best, if not the best, Burgundy wine list in Tokyo. The atmosphere is wonderful as well, and you can take your port downstairs in the wine cellar after dinner (or have a cigar; the sitting room sporting some very old sofas (seating for a maximum of 4 people) is separated from the wines by a glass wall, so you are in the midst of the wines but do not distrub them with your fumes).

                            There is also - considerably less high brow, but great, great fun - a pork restaurant serving everything pig-related. Literally absolutely everything, including some incredibly unusual stuff. I'll need to check their meishi for the name. In this context, I also very much recommend this book: "Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them" by Peter Kaminsky.

                            1. re: Asomaniac

                              Asomaniac> how would Dons stack up against Gorio or Aragawa? would be interested in your thoughts since would like to try the best next time I am there.

                              If you like wine, one place that I quite enjoy is Les Vinum in Nishi Azabu. It is cozy and quite a romantic place to visit with the wife!

                              1. re: HKTraveler

                                HK Traveller,

                                Gorio I would also rate very highly, I think on balance I still preferred Dons, but that may very well be personal preference rather than a differenc in quality. The steaks taste different, they store and treat them very differently at Dons in the weeks before they get served.

                                I have not been to Aragawa. I live in hope that given Gorio is the sister restaurant, the meat won't be all that different. To be honest however, I have not checked to see if they use a different type of wagyu - schoolboy error, I know, but the price tag of Aragawa has put me off sufficiently to not be that interested. As mentioned elsewhere, I am more than happy to spend top dollar on exceptional food that is worth it, but I don't like to pay over the odds. If a restaurant that just serves steak consistently comes top in the world in the most expensive category, I hesitate a bit... No doubt curiosity will get the better of me sometime this year, but so far I have managed to resist.

                                Les Vinum - thanks for the tip. I have not been yet and will definitely go very soon. I just checked it out on the internet, and it sounds great.

                                If you are into wine, in Nishi Azabu I would also recommed Elevage, a rare wine place. It only has two tables and a counter, but the wines are divine. It is run by a man who used to run or co-run the imperial wine cellars. He is particularly strong on Burgundy, but also does some real gems by the glass, like top notch 1970s German Rieling (the sweetness is gone, burned tyre is storng and it is a fantastic taste sensation), 1960s Chateau d'Yquem or the occasional 1945 or 1961 Bordeaux.

                                1. re: Asomaniac

                                  I actually did the same thing. Went to Gorio since it is the "cheaper" cousin of Aragawa. I really enjoyed it though I am not sure it is worth the price given there are many great steak places that are much cheaper. Some friends of mine raved about Aragawa though and that's why I am trying to go to one good steak place the next time I am in Tokyo. Still looks like a toss up between Aragawa and Dons.

                                  Thanks for the tip. Elevage sounds fantastic! Am a big fan of Burgundy and German Riesling. Looks like they have lots of treasures there. Is the price off the charts as well?

                                  1. re: HKTraveler

                                    The prices are not low, but they are not excessive for Japan, and there is no premium for the fact that they have certain bottles you would not be likely to find elsewhere (esp. if you take a look at the vintages).

                                    One thing that is excellent and makes it "cheaper" in a way is the fact that page 1 of the menu consists of by-the-glass wines which should not be served by the glass anywhere. The pricing is that the owner simply divides the bottle price by the number of glasses you get out of the bottle, so there is no mark-up for the glass. This is pretty generous if we are talking about an 800 dollar bottle of wine, and he has no guarantee that the rest will be drunk while the wine is still in its prime state. If you know the owner a bit, he even lets you pick a bottle or two to open, and then you are free to just have a glass, and the wine becomes the next by-the-glass wine on the menu.

                                    1. re: Asomaniac

                                      HK Traveller,

                                      I have just booked Les Vinum for tonight. Very curious, thanks for the tip.

                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                        HK Traveller,

                                        I absolutely LOVED Les Vinum tonight, thank you for the tip. Will write a review when I am sober.

                                  2. re: Asomaniac

                                    Hi Asomaniac,

                                    Just out of curiosity, how expensive is Aragawa, and do you have an address or URL link?

                                    Thanks~

                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                      exilekiss,

                                      I am afraid not, I just got my information from the Michelin guide and whatever information I googled. Put me off enough price-wise not to explore further.

                                      1. re: exilekiss

                                        Hi exilekiss:

                                        Michelin guide wrote the budget for Aragawa is from Yen 40k to 80k per person.

                                        Forbes magazine ranked it as one of the most expensive restaurants in the world :

                                        http://www.forbes.com/forbeslife/trav...

                                        1. re: FourSeasons

                                          And I would add to that that it means it will probably be even more expensive if you have a proper meal there, at least if you indulge a bit. I end up spending 50% or more, often over double, than a guide says an average meal will cost. If you go for a decent amount of food and not just the minimum, often the guides should only be viewed as indicating the low end, expense-wise.

                                          1. re: Asomaniac

                                            Hello, here is a video regarding Aragawa, I heard it is $265 for 8 oz of fillet or sirloin. Enjoy !

                                            What Aragawa use is sanda beef which is a famous branch of kobe beef (from my understanding). Have not tried it. However, I have tried some A5 Wagyu and Real Kobe Beef in Japan, the kobe beef is almost double the price of the A5. The kobe beef is melt in the mouth without excessive fat as I have the tenderloin part of it, where as the A5 I had is the sirloin part which is full of fat marbling, cannot take more than a few pieces for me.

                                            Some teppanyaki restaurants actually use A4 as it is not as fatty.

                                            http://www.cctv.com/english/20061228/...

                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                              Hi skylineR33,

                                              Thanks for your info! :) So is there a such thing as "A5 grade Kobe"?

                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                Yes, Kobe beef is just one kind of Wagyu beef. There are many different kind of wagyu beef, when beef is from some less well-known prefecture, the restaurant usually use the general word Wagyu.

                                              2. re: skylineR33

                                                That's about the same price Guy Savoy was offering for A5 Kobe when I was in Vegas a couple weeks ago.
                                                Anyone know cheaper alternatives in Japan where I can get A5 Kobe/Yonezawa/Matsusaka Wagyu?

                                              3. re: Asomaniac

                                                Some acquaintances from another board dined at Aragawa last December. One of them wrote about it on their blog http://www.alifewortheating.com/tokyo... . They weren't impressed with the experience (though the food was fine). No mention of prices, though you could always ask!

                                              4. re: FourSeasons

                                                Hi FourSeasons and Asomaniac,

                                                Wow! (O_O) 40k - 80k per person?! Yikes. That just seems ridiculous. Thanks for the info.