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Wagyu beef in Tokyo or Kyoto, non-teppanyaki, non-Dons?

I would like to try very good wagyu or even Kobe beef in Tokyo.
After doing my research here on the forum, I am down to the following:

1) I don't want teppanyaki - it's a bit for tourists and I somehow associate it mainly with the US

2) Dons de la Nature are too expensive for me. There are 4 of us and while we do splurge on good food, I am ready to go up to 20-30K per person. Also, I am looking for more of a Japanese experience, not necesssarily a "normal" steak. But I'm keeping it in the back of my head.

3) I once ate amazing beef in Takayama in a restaurant where we cooked the meat at the table over hot coals (or burner). This is something I like.

Is there any similar place in Tokyo (or possibly Kyoto) where I could DIY cook my beef and it wouldn't necessarily break my bank? I'm talking about the very top top top quality of the meat.

If you think that I should still try the Dons, that it's so uncomparable to anything else, please say so.
Thank you.

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  1. If teppanyaki is for tourists, you'll have to educate the multitudes of Japanese who have teppanyaki every year.

    You could try yakiniku, which involves cooking meat over grills at the table, but imo, that would be just as much for "tourists" as teppanyaki, so you would probably want to avoid that, too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: prasantrin

      sorry, it's just that I've seldom come across a teppanyaki restaurant in Japan, but when I'm in the US and get invited for Japanese, it's invariably teppanyaki. So if you would recommend teppanyaki for the top quality and flavour of beef, I'll gladly go there.

    2. Seems you need to unlearn some of the Japanese culinary stereotypes that you've internalized, since many of the best places for steaks in Japan ARE teppanyaki restaurants. The places that you find in the US and the quality teppanyaki places in Japan are nothing alike. In this case, don't trust your instincts. Just go with the flow in Japan and find a good teppanyaki place. There are so many to mention.

      4 Replies
      1. re: E Eto

        OK OK I'll be a reformed teppanyaki girl :-)

        I found the Satou Steakhouse here on the forum, but I must say it's a bit far out for me and mainly, I don't want to drag out my comfortable 60-something parents for a 2-hour wait.

        So please suggest something preferably on the Yamamoto line or up to 2km from Hibiya, if you can.

        PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE :-))) Thank you!

        1. re: sasicka

          HAHAHA I feel for you! this board is a bit harsh on imposing whatever is the prevailing mood the usual posters are indulging in! I had the reverse of your experience, I mentioned in a post that I intended to go to a top notch teppanyaki in Tokyo for the experience and I was attacked as sharply as you from the other direction, with people telling me that teppanyaki was sooo passe, and sooo for ignorant tourists with expense accounts, and there is sooo much else that i should be trying in Tokyo rather than having 'ugh' teppanyaki!! I love chowhound :D

          1. re: shekamoo

            I guess we do seem like a fickle bunch here. I think the point though is that a lot of people come to Japan with the preconception that Japanese cuisine is all about high-end sushi and Kobe beef (and maybe some ramen) - that's what they know from Japanese restaurants back home, so that's what they look for here. In fact though there's much more interesting food to discover once you stop looking for what you're used to back home, so many of the regular posters here try to encourage visitors to try other types of cuisine.

            Also most people here don't go to sushi restaurants every week or even every month, and go to teppanyaki restaurants even more rarely - it's generally for business entertainment or some special occasion - so it's odd to see someone's dining itinerary filled with nothing but sushi and beef restaurants.

            The OP though specifically requested good wagyu beef and a Japanese experience, so I think the best way to encompass all of that in Tokyo would be at a nice teppanyaki restaurant.

          2. re: sasicka

            Ukaitei in Higashi-Ginza is probably the closest high-end teppanyaki place, although the atmosphere is sort of Art Deco European rather than Japanese. Hamayu on the 30th floor of the Le Meridien Grand Pacific hotel in Daiba is very nice, has a good view, and would be a reasonable taxi ride to get to.

            Sumida in the Royal Park Hotel is nice, and a bit closer and cheaper (prix-fixe menus start at Y12,000). I haven't been there myself but Yebisu in the Westin Hotel in Ebisu is also highly regarded. As you may have noticed, lots of teppanyaki restaurants are located in hotels, but that doesn't necessarily make them any more "touristy." Very few restaurants in Tokyo rely on tourists. Here's a link that includes all of the above: http://www.bento.com/r-jmeat.html

            Note also that unlike in steakhouses, the typical teppanyaki dinner includes seasonal seafood courses as well as beef.

        2. My favorite teppanyaki place is in Kobe, Wakkoqu.

          It's expensive & you need to take the Shinkansen,
          but it is worth it.

          Not just a meal, more like the highlight of a trip to Japan.

          We sat at a counter & had our own personal chef (it
          helped that the place was empty at the time).

          1. Thank you, everybody. However, it seems that I still haven't found what I'm looking for :-)
            I must confess that even though I've had some pretty good meals in hotel restaurants, especially in Japan, the atmosphere usually has something sterile and leaves me sort of unsatisfied.

            I don't need high-class service or great decor. However, I like more intimate places or at least if they feel like it. Also, it doesn't necessarily have to be only beef... in whichever form and region, as long as it's Japanese and not imported.

            What is the most important for me is the quality of the beef (and obviously if I won't prepare it myself, also the quality of the chef). In continental Europe, we are used to have absolutely lean beef, the leaner the better. Therefore Japanese beef is a mystery for me and I've been fascinated by it ever since my last trip to Japan when I tried it a couple of times. So this time around, I would like to try the best possible.

            Recapitulation of my options so far (not necessarily in order of preference):
            Dons de la Nature (too expensive)
            Satou Steakhouse (too far away)
            Wakkoqu (in Kobe, not enough time to go there)
            Ukatei (lacks Japanese atmosphere)
            Hamayu (hotel restaurant, sorry but I disliked the pictures)
            Sumida (in a hotel, but I liked it a bit better)

            So far I guess I like Ukatei the best, but it seems to be controversial on this site. There is plenty of people saying that there is better beef out there but not saying where :-)

            So, do you guys have any other tips? Any other recommendations? And perhaps just for the fun of it, something non-teppanyaki?

            4 Replies
            1. re: sasicka

              Robb S., did you notice that the Grand Pacific is no longer a Le Meridien? Do these ownership changes have an impact on the quality of the food? In my country, such a change would have radical impact on the restaurant.

              1. re: sasicka

                No I didn't. And no, generally not. And a hotel name change doesn't necessarily imply a change of ownership.

              2. re: sasicka

                Hey, you keep changing the rules! First it was only about the food, now it's all about the atmosphere...

                OK, no problem - if you want something a little less institutional with more of a neighborhood feel, you might want to check out Ahill in Nishi-Azabu or maybe even Karashi in Meguro. Both very local, I'm not sure if they even speak English, but they do good teppanyaki in a casual setting, and are far cheaper than expensive-account joints like Serenya and Ukaitei. I don't know if you'll have the ultimate steaks there, but you might find a nice balance of good food, warm atmosphere and friendly service.

                1. re: Robb S

                  Can't a woman have it all? :-) Thanks very much, it sounds wonderful. I'm not afraid of drawing my way through a dinner :-)

              3. Gyu-an
                6-13-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
                4 min. walk from Subway Ginza station Exit A3,
                2 min. walk from Subway Higashi Ginza station Exit A1
                3542-0226

                More of a rustic place. And its not teppanyaki. Hot stone cooking and traditional cast iron platters for steaks.
                http://www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp/eng...

                At those prices you are not getting top grade wagyu; however, it is still an excellent meal in a relaxed setting. The wagyu nigiri, the tataki and the chopped steak are also excellent. You can order a higher grade al la carte, but its not top grade. Go for lunch one day to see if it is appropriate for your guests.

                I splurged once for a higher grade teppanyaki set and it was ¥40,000! And that was the cheapest set. I cant remember the name of the place though. Top grade wagyu can go for as much as ¥80,000 a pound to give you some perspective.

                But I will chime in with the others that sitting down in front of a chef and having a teppanyaki meal is similar to having a great omakase at a sushi bar.

                7 Replies
                1. re: AdamD

                  Sorry actually they do offer "specially selected" sets with the higher grade-#6 & 7. And come to think of it, that is exactly what I have had there on my visits. Usually the 200g sirloin.

                  1. re: AdamD

                    Gosh, that menu looks like something you'd find in pre-glasnost Lithuania or someplace. Rustic I can believe. It's a bit hard to take them seriously with their "Red wine - Full bottle" for Y3000-5000, and their "For female only" menu option.

                    Also I'm not sure what the "higher grade-#6 &7" means - top-grade wagyu goes up to A-5.

                    1. re: Robb S

                      Set menu choices #6 and #7 (and #5 missed that one)
                      Its a casual place-I think you can BYOB there as well.
                      Yeah the female thing is a bit weird (but its far from the weirdest thing I have seen in tokyo ;) ), and as far as the wine goes, the brands/types are not translated.

                      They serve a very nice Kobe (pretty sure it all comes from Kobe) steak meal for a decent price.
                      When I dont feel like spending $300 for teppanyaki, this is where I go.

                      1. re: AdamD

                        Actually their Japanese menu looks much more appealing, and there's certainly a market for decent steaks at a reasonable price level - thanks for the recommendation.

                        I was mostly commenting on the terrible English menu. It looks like making bad English menus is a new service of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

                        (PS. the Japanese menu makes it look like it's not all Kobe beef - some items are marked "Kobegyu" and some aren't.)

                        1. re: Robb S

                          Not on the same pleasure, but not boring, even beef pieces will be 5 !!! Cheese chawanmushi (egg flan) is on the menu. To stop it, the link :
                          http://www.kaishoku-michiba.jp/info_en
                          Staff are very accomodating, so ask for supplement on beef if you want to... and for the main room (=small)

                          1. re: Robb S

                            Thanks-Give it a shot-love to hear what you think.
                            I noticed that the basic set meals are probably not wagyu, but the "select" ones are. Gotta love some of the Japanese to English translations.

                            1. re: AdamD

                              A zoom on the Kaiseki proposed by the Iron Chef Michiba :
                              http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A130...
                              Have you tried a gratin with miso and cheese on a kaiskei course ? Or beef ? Or cheese ? It is tasty.
                              2 times, 2 different lunches (last one one year ago), there was always choice of a menu including beef... Dinner course can be complete with side orders, reservation in advance is necessary.
                              There is 2 michiba restaurant in Ginza, the Kaishoku Michiba is in front of Matsuzakaya and is smaller...
                              Lunchs are affordable, diner is more than 10,000.-yens for the seasonal course,

                  2. Hi sasicka, in case you still haven't found what you're looking for, i.e. good wagyu without an overly formal atmosphere, DIY and not too expensive - would like to recommend the following yakiniku places in no particular order (it's basically the charcoal / burner style that you mention you enjoyed in Takayama):

                    * Maruni @ Shimbashi (about Y3500 - Y5000 per person, a small place, v friendly owner who speaks English as he's stayed in NYC for quite a while previously, interesting layout as you can either sit at the 'bar' area - 4 or 5 ppl can probably fit there - or gather round charcoal burners as shown here: http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A130...

                    )

                    * Shotai-en @ Shiba-Daimon (Y3500 - Y5000, more modern, besides the standard kalbi, rosu, recommend the geta: http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1314/A131... as it gets quite busy, service can be a bit harried at times

                    )

                    * Ayano Kouji near Tokyo Midtown (recommend the Y8000 or so set - good variety of meats and a pleasant dessert + coffee to finish. a bit more formal as you get private rooms & the server will do part of the cooking for you. better if you would like a more structured introduction to yakiniku: http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A130...

                    )

                    * Kunimoto @ Daimon (Y7000 per person they have the 'shinkan', or the newer outlet, and the 'honkan', or original - difference seems to be mainly setting, though both are still more traditional than the other 3 above - good provenance, their speciality is the more 'red' cuts of meat. but can get very smoky as their exhaust system is more archaic. warning also tht no English spoken here: http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1314/A131...)

                    All of these places are a couple of train stops away from Hibiya, so minimal travelling needed. The other well regarded yakiniku places that I can think of e.g. Kinryuuzan, Stamina-en... are a fair bit further away and not on the tourist trail. Plus reservations are difficult (e.g. up to 6 mths ahead for Kinryuuzan) or impossible (e.g. Stamina-en), so may not be suitable for you.

                    For a more in depth overview of yakiniku, as well as some explanations of the special cuts, I've found this site useful: http://www.yakiniquest.com/-/ (it's in Japanese but if you can find a native speaker to help you translate or perhaps try running it thru Google Translate).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: RipCurl

                      Perhaps it should be mentioned that all the places you listed here are Korean restaurants. I think the OP did specify Japanese style.

                      1. re: Robb S

                        Thanks Robb, yakiniku as you point out is of Korean origin, then adapted for Japanese tastes in seasoning, serving style and accompaniments. So like tonkatsu / yoshoku, I think of it as a Japanese-style food experience despite its foreign origins, and quite different than a Korean kalbi meal? as well as being a cost effective way to enjoy wagyu - though of course not at the exclusion of teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, and all other wonderful ways of enjoying kuroge wagyu :)

                      2. re: RipCurl

                        I second Ayanokouji. The meat was excellent in this yakiniku place.
                        http://www.ayanokouji.jp/