Just as we were about to leave the ANA Hotel, a small luminous sign caught our eye: Kobe Beef Gallery. Having just eaten the famous wagyu, we decided to pop in for curiosity’s sake. True to its name, the Kobe Beef Gallery showcased a lot of information about Kobe Beef. Actually, it presented more than that; it highlighted Japan’s prestigious beef industry. The grading standard was put upfront — from what was classified as A, B or C, to what was graded from 1 to 5. A5 is scored as the top quality of beef, and the glass blocks showing the marbling of each kind justified its popularity.
The white streaks of fat embroiled in the reddish pink meat was enough to entice one’s tongue. Huge chunks and slabs of beef were present in an open refrigerator where visitors could admire the meat’s beauty. It would have been difficult not to be lured by such beautiful meat, had we not been full from our earlier lunch. Photos of the Tajima cattle and the history of cattle raising in the region were displayed to provide more information to the visitors.
One member of the staff even approached us, making some small talk in his best English. When he asked where we were from, he was delighted to hear that we were from the Philippines, as he said his girlfriend was a fellow Filipino. Perhaps he was trying to lure us to sample their store’s Kobe Beef, because the gallery had an eat-in area where one could enjoy some of the precious beef. It would have been a truly immersive experience if we happened to dine there — learning a lot from theory and trying Kobe Beef for the first time all in one spot. On one hand, it felt as though they had better quality of meat than Wakkoqu’s [this is me judging simply by the slabs of refrigerated meat on display and that they seem to be more knowledgeable of the industry]. On the other hand, the ambiance was far superior in Wakkoqu and the lunch set was cheaper too. This gallery’s lunch menu was around 10,000-11,000 yen, whereas Wakkoqu’s was only around 7,000 yen.
Though we did not participate in any gastronomic endeavor, this small information center was generous enough to allow us to recreate delicious treats at home. We were given a Wagyu cookbook to take home (a great souvenir if you ask me), where traditional Japanese beef dishes were written. We thanked the staff and left the gallery, and said adieu to our very short visit to Kobe. On our shinkansen ride back to Kyoto, I could not help but browse the cookbook out of excitement. I could only wish that we had such tender beef to cook back home. [I later found some wagyu (Kagoshima beef) in the grocery we shop at, but it was a bit discolored and it was really pricey!]
If you are interested in learning more about Kobe Beef or even the wagyu industry, I encourage you to drop by the Kobe Beef Gallery. It was one unexpected visit that was truly remarkable.
I know in my heart that this wouldn’t be my last Kobe Beef encounter. I do not know when the next time will be…but I’m sure it will be worth the wait.
More on Japan next time…happy (virtual) travels!