Filet-mignon, T-bone steaks, and ribs fill the menus of the best steakhouses, but for true epicureans—those who only accept the best and cannot resist a good cut of beef—there is Kobe beef, the most succulent, delicious and coveted of them all.
Kobe is the Japanese region where Wagyu cattle originated. “Just as the word champagne is the denomination of origin used for the sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France, the name Kobe is reserved exclusively for the Wagyu raised in Kobe for over two centuries,” explains Devin Hashimoto, executive chef of Mizumi restaurant at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Therefore, meat that comes from Wagyu cattle raised anywhere but Kobe should be called Wagyu beef or “Kobe-style” because it refers to the type of cattle but not its origin.
However, the term Kobe has become a marketing tool and butchers and restaurants include it in their menus to advertise Wagyu beef from different places, including the United States, Australia, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain, where this kind of cattle is also bred. In fact, the cuts of American “Kobe-style” beef tend to have darker meat and stronger flavor. To be more specific, Kobe beef refers to meat from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture according to rules set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association.
Kobe beef is renowned worldwide for its succulence as well as its intense and extraordinary flavor. It is also rich in oleaginous nutrients beneficial to our health and the right percentage of fat, which gives it its marbled appearance.
Growing this superlative product requires special care. Every day, the animals receive relaxing massages to secure a good muscle tone. Studies show that these rubs help the cattle graze in a relaxed state and keeps them satisfied and at ease, which influences the quality of their meat, making it superior to that obtained from animals raised under stress.
It is well known that free range grass fed animals have better flavor, but in Kobe, the cattle are raised naturally in abundant and extensive pastures, and with a special diet that includes grains and even sake and beer. Beer stimulates the animal`s appetite and makes them consume more forage. It also interacts with their body fat with exceptional results, including very low-fat content. The oxen enjoy additional pampering, such as sake baths. From time to time, and for several hours, cattle are washed with the traditional Japanese liquor. Having their hides clean and perfumed with this drink also influences the quality of the meat.
This exclusive meat has earned its deserved reputation. According to the prestigious Spanish chef Alberto Chicote, it is “one of the most legendary meats in the world; a sublime product. It is tender and tasty, and never disappoints.”
If you are a beef lover, a carnivore or an epicurean who consumes only the best, Kobe beef is the way to go on your next visit to your favorite steakhouse. ■