While I was in Japan, there were two foods that I made it a mission to eat; Kobe beef and “fugu” (pufferfish). I don’t even remember if I’ve ever had wagyu beef before I came to Japan but I had some melt-in-your-mouth A5 Hida beef in Takayama, which was very memorable. I used to be confused regarding what the difference was between “Kobe beef” and “wagyu beef” but to be clear, Kobe beef is a kind of wagyu, which is beef from Japan. As for fugu, I did some research and apparently, the “fugu capital of Japan” was Shimonoseki so I made it a point to stop there while I made my way west toward Fukuoka.
I left Osaka early one morning with the aim of reaching Hiroshima in the evening with quick stops in Kobe (for the beef) and Himeji (to see picturesque Himeji castle). Upon reaching Kobe, a quick 40 min local train ride away from Osaka, I walked toward the city center, not too far from the train station. I had a restaurant in mind that I wanted to eat at but when I arrived, they said they were full. I decided to walk down the street to see if other restaurants served A5 Kobe beef. I managed to find one which wasn’t full but looked a bit dated. It could mean either “old but full of history and heritage” or “not popular and doesn’t make enough money”. I decided to head in because I was short on time. Looking at the menu, my eyes widened; the prices were astronomical. However, I was not shocked as my research revealed that was indeed the going-rate for top-grade Kobe. I could very well have tried a cheaper option instead of the A5 but you know… #kuidaore #yolo #banzai. When the food I picked came, I was quite disappointed. Firstly, for the price I’m paying, I expected a bit more food. If not the quantity of beef, at least the fancy mashed potatoes it came with. Anyway, I took a bite of the beef. My first thought was that the beef didn’t have the same melt-in-your-mouth feel as the Hida beef did. I mean, it was good but not $100 good. I finished, paid my bill albeit with some regret, and headed out to catch the train to Himeji. I won’t say that Kobe beef isn’t any good. It’s just that I think I might’ve had a different experience overall if I went back to another restaurant, one with many vetted positive reviews. Next time.
Fast forward a few days. I left Hiroshima to go to Fukuoka with a quick stop in Shimonoseki. I alighted the train and walked into town. There was very little traffic and not many people. I was wondering why. I walked about 20 mins before I came to a small neighborhood where I was looking for a specific fugu restaurant. Again, shops looked closed. Then I realized something; it was Sunday! Oh no… did that mean restaurants were closed as well? I was wondering if I was indeed going to be able to try fugu that day. I had reservations for a hostel in Fukuoka already and didn’t want to cancel it (non-refundable) and stay in tiny unhappening Shimonoseki.
But the food gods were with me that day. The restaurant was open but barely. I arrived at the appropriate time, as it had just opened. I was able to signal to an elderly lady that I wanted to have fugu and she sat me in a private dining room. I looked at the all-Japanese menu and was lost. It wasn’t a big menu to begin with and thankfully there were pictures. I could make out the sashimi-style fugu but what were the rest of the dishes I was getting? If I am going to pay 4000 yen for a combo meal, I’d like to know at least what I was getting. But alas, that was not to be. The elderly lady and another male staff member couldn’t speak English. So I prayed to the food gods, went with the tried and true “if it looks good, eat it!” (the tao of Andrew Zimmern), and pointed to a combo meal. Again, #kuidaore #yolo #banzai.
Well, the food gods blessed me with yet another delicious meal. Besides the sashimi-style fugu (which was like eating any other sashimi except it did indeed produce a little bit of numbness in the mouth), I got fried fugu (“karaage”) as well as a fugu porridge. Money well spent if you ask me. And best of all, I did not die!
That’s my Kobe beef and fugu adventure in a nutshell and some of my pricier foodie exploits.
#kuidaore #yolo #banzai
Bonus pic. Pretty Himeji Castle that we all know from postcards.