Friday, March 11, 2011

Goods Eats In Search of Kobe: Yakiniku Hiroshi

No I'm not talking about Kobe Bryant, the professional basketball player who is the shooting guard for the L.A. Lakers, I'm talking about Kobe beef.  It was Kobe beef that caught Joe and Pamela Bryant's eye on a steakhouse menu and they decided to name their son after it.  Kobe beef is the famed marbled beef achieved by feeding cows beer and massaging them all day.  Only a select few restaurants serve Kobe beef in the United States and this is the search to find them.


First, a little bit about Kobe beef.  Kobe is one of the most well known of the five breeds of Wagyu.  Wagyu literally means Japanese cattle ("wa" meaning Japanese, "gyu" meaning cow) and was introduced to Japan to help with rice cultivation.  The breed of cattle is known for it's tender meat, high fat content, and strong flavor.  Kobe beef refers to the black Tajima-usi breed of Wagyu, raised following strict guidelines of the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan.  There has been some controversy over how the cows are raised.  Legend has it that in addition to the cows being feed beer and massaged, some cows are even played soothing music while being massaged with sake.  American ranchers dismiss those accounts saying high quality feed will yield the same results.

Whatever the case, only a few ranches outside of Japan are able to achieve "Wagyu-style" beef.  Since Japanese beef imports are banned from the US at the time of this writing, only Wagyu-style beef from American ranches are available in restaurants.  One American ranch that specializes in Wagyu-style beef is Snake River Farms.  And one restaurant that serves Snake River Farms beef is Yakiniku Hiroshi in Waikiki.  The portions are small, but it's about quality over quantity.


Yakiniku Hiroshi is located at 339 Royal Hawaiian Ave View Larger Map

The Wagyu-style beef is flown in weekly to Yakiniku Hiroshi.  And the beef is the top 1% of Wagyu-style beef from Snake River Farms.  You haven't had beef, until you're had Kobe beef.  A word of warning: you get what you pay for, this place will definitely put a dent in your wallet.

Yakiniku style is cooking your meat or vegetables over a wood, charcoal, or gas grill.  In China, Taiwan, and America yakiniku is referred to as "Japanese style barbeque".  While in Japan, it is referred to as "Korean barbeque".  Wherever it comes from, you can grill your meat and vegetables to your tastes.

They offer several grades of Kobe beef and even different parts of the cow.  If you like beef tongue or tripe you can get that here.  We decided to skip the tripe and instead try the Kobe beef.  We ordered the US Kobe "Toro" Kalbi and the US Kobe Kalbi.  On the left is the "Toro" Kalbi.  The "Toro" is the fattier grade and so it has "chunks" of fat in the cut.  On the right is the regular Kobe.  It is evenly marbled throughout the cut.  They will ask you if you want your strips seasoned with salt and pepper or marinated in their special sauce.  It's one or the other per order because one is a dry rub and the other is a wet marinade.  We tried both and liked it.

The correct way to cook your strip of Kobe beef.  Place your strip on the edges of the grill, let it sit for 3-5 seconds, then turn.  Remember, the beef is cut in very thin strips, so you don't need a lot of time to cook.  Also, unlike traditional yakiniku where the dipping sauces are already provided in small saucers, you have to ask for them here.  Yes, you pay a little extra, but it is only a little and the sauce is a nice touch.

Kobe beef has a high fat content, so you don't have to leave them on the grill long.  In fact, because of the high fat content of Kobe beef, cooking them in thin strips is the preferred method.  Big cuts are difficult to cook evenly, might cause flare ups, and burn the beef.
No longer than 5 seconds on each side will do, but if you see flames on your steak like in the picture above, it's too long.  Time to flip the strips to keep them from burning.

Be careful when you turn the meat over, you don't want it to break apart.  Gentle scrap it off the grill before turning it over.  You should get a nice sear on one side when you flip it.  Oh yeah, this was great steak.  It was juicer than any porterhouse or ribeye I've had before.  A guy I know said this steak was so juicy it tasted like butter.    

To go with your butter, one of the sides you must order is the roasted garlic.  I'm not sure what they do (I think they grill and salt it), but it is delicious.  It pairs well with the Kobe beef and beer.  

Don't forget to order the sides.  Of course, you need some vegetables to go with your steak.  Just need something to wash down all this good food...  

And what else to wash this down with?  A large 21.4 oz bottle of Asahi beer.  They even have an extensive wine list if you want an affordable $30 bottle of wine or if you want a $500 bottle, they have it.  All in all, excellent beef and a great meal.  

Reservations are highly recommended.  They are open from 5:30 pm to 11:00 pm and you can call ahead at (808) 923-0060.  No street parking because it's in the heart of Waikiki, but they validate if you park in the Waikiki Trade Center on Seaside Avenue.  Be sure to ask the parking maid if they validate for Yakiniku Hiroshi.  There are two parking structures close together, but only one accepts validation from Yakiniku Hiroshi.  

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