5.143 Good Award Kobe Beef Steak Course

-Cycle 5, Item 143-
28 (Wed) May 2014

Good Award Kobe Beef Steak Course


at Biftek Kawamura



Expert Consultation on "Intersectoral Action on Health" + Personal Deviation, Day 1.

My first duty travel!  I've been dispatched to the World Health Organization Centre for Health Development (aka "WHO Kobe Centre" aka "WKC") in Kobe, Japan. From 29 (Thu) to 30 (Fri) June, I'll be attending the Expert Consultation on "Intersectoral Action on Health."  The work is cool.  But more important--that is, for purpose of the blog--the trip promises to provide many new food experiences.  To maximize the opportunity, I'll be staying in the country through 1 (Sun) July--a "personal deviation" in WHO parlance--for a total of 2.5 days in Kobe, 2.5 days in Osaka.

From my room in the Kobe Portopia Hotel...

...a view of the ocean.

Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cow.  "Japanese (wa)" + "beef (gyu)."  Supposedly, they have a genetic predisposition to marbling (maybe).  Indeed, more than anything, the meat is famous for its extreme marbling, more fat than muscle.  Supposedly, they have more omega-6 fatty acids and a higher ratio of monounsaturated fats than standard beef (hard to believe).  One of the most famous varieties of wagyu is from Kobe, which imposes strict standards for what may be labeled as such--the cows must be of the Tajima strain, born/raised/slaughtered in Hyogo Prefecture, with minimum marbling requirements, etc.--that stuff about beer and massage may be myth.  

I eat at a lot of restaurants where I'm the only person in the place.

Biftek Kawamura is a Japanese steak restaurant chain.  6 locations in and around Kobe, 1 in Tokyo.  All menu items involve beef, various cuts and grades and sets, mostly prepared in teppanyaki form.

When I learned that I'd be traveling to Japan, the first thing that I did was go to Mina, a Japanese colleague in the office, for restaurant recommendations.  I asked her for a simple list of places to get certain items that I was hoping to try, and she produced a brochure with color photos and hyperlinks.  She even made reservations for me at some of them and got a secretary at WKC to print out maps.  Thanks, Mina! 

With 10% tax, the food alone came out to about 28,000 JPY (around 280 USD)--the most expensive meal that I've ever had for myself, and probably the biggest ripoff; I should've ordered just a 120-gram steak + grilled vegetables set, which would've been "only" 15,000 JPY.

For my first night in Kobe, I had to start with the beef.  I'd asked Mina to recommend the best of the best: "cost is not an issue."  She came up with Biftek Kawamura, which she'd never tried but had heard good things about.

Aburi of Good Award Kobe Beef (1.5)--raw, didn't taste like much.

Condiments: tonkatsu sauce + wasabi + pickled radish + garlic.

Oxtail Soup (3.0)--respectable, though I can do just as well at a fraction of the cost (see generally 3.111 Ggori Tang).

Double whammy.

 I've decided that I don't like foie gras when cooked, which transforms a lump of fat...

...into a greasy lump of fat; Foie Gras Steak (2.5)--with garlic salt.

Kira Mugi Shochu--I couldn't handle the food without a large gulp of this in between every bite.

Green Salad (1.5)--totally Mickey Mouse.

 Grilled Vegetables (2.0)--the garlic slices were okay, the rest meh.

Good Award Kobe Beef Steak (160 g) (3.25)

Dips: ponzu, salt + pepper + ajinomoto (MSG), soy sauce + miso + sesame seeds + scallions.

Steamed rice--oh joy oh bliss.

I should've ordered the 120-gram portion, because I was kinda tapped out by this point.

Dessert (2.0)--along with the foie gras, French wannabe; 
OJ (1.0) (in lieu of coffee/tea)--the juice was from a can.

The food was disappointing.  Hoping to be utterly blown away by the experience, and wanting to leave no room for doubt--lest there be any lingering doubts, like "Maybe if I'd gotten the more expensive cut..."--I ordered the priciest thing on the menu: full course, "Good Award," 160 grams.   First, everything other than the steak was a waste of time, certainly not worth the extra money.  Even worse, some of the items, particularly the foie gras and vegetables, compounded the overwhelming heaviness of the meal; towards the end, I started feeling a bit queasy.  As for the meat itself, it was indeed melt-in-mouth tender, and I could see how somebody who'd never experienced anything similar might be impressed.  However, it just reminded me exactly of Korean beef: same squishy texture, little beef flavor (see for example 4.140 The VIP Cut; 2.212 Grilled Ggot-Deungsim).  Actually, as a meal, I would argue that Korean beef in barbecue form is superior because it comes with kimchi and fresh vegetables to balance out the greasiness of the meat.  Anyway, whatever.  Bucket list.  

Still feeling somewhat icky from all that fat/oil/grease, I stepped into 7-11 for a Coke Zero to cleanse my system--yes, I have quit Coke in my daily life, but I've carved out a traveling exception.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the food choices were predominantly fresh and healthful.

Even edamame!

Sushi options galore.

A wide selection of heat-em-up dishes.

Actual cooking ingredients.

Very few instant noodles.

And yes, a lot of booze...

...including whiskies, many local.

Alas, deep-fried junk sold at the counter.

In terms of food, the day ended on a high note through the discovery of the convenience store.  Pitch perfect toro maki (tuna belly sushi roll) and boiled edamame (soy beans) with a tall glass of Suntory whisky, thank you very much.

A mere 520 JPY for the food, 1,414 JPY for the whisky.


  1. wow. for all that money you get served on a piece of aluminum foil and crappy white bread.

  2. i didn't eat the bread, so i can't tell you if it was crappy. but yeah, I was like, "huh?"