Up till last month, my gastronomic holy grail had been to partake of the legendary Matsuzaka beef in Japan. I alluded to this when I was interviewed by Teo Pao Lin in the Straits Times last year when she asked me what my last meal would be. Now, in my post-Matsuzaka state, I have to reset my culinary sights on my next holy grail which is to have a meal at El Bulli.
When I found out that I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo last month, the very first thought that came to mind was to find the best place to eat Matsuzaka beef. This was actually the main goal of the whole trip. The rest of the food were secondary as were the sightseeing around Tokyo.
Nowadays, (or Nowsadays as some Singaporeans might say) thanks to this wonderful thing called “Blogs”, you don’t really need to know anyone personally to ask pertinent questions like “Eh, where can I eat reasonably priced Matsuzaka Beef in Tokyo” anymore. A quick search on the internet and I found this guy called Paul who blogged about his experience at Steak House Satou.
Steak House Satou sounds like the kind of place I’d like to visit since it was situated in a sort of non-touristy suburb of Tokyo and most importantly, it was supposed to sell Matsuzaka beef at really reasonable prices. The fact that he said “Not everyone knows about the steak house upstairs, but everyone in Kichijoji knows about the meat shop downstairs” only added to the mystery of the place. It’s like someone sharing a secret “Lobang” with you that no one else knows, right?
Anyway, as per the instructions on the blog, we took the train to Shinjuku and changed to the westbound chuo line heading towards Takao. Kochijoji is the 8th station from Shinjuku. Now when you get off the train, head for the North exit and when you get out, cross the road and take the street at the 10 o’clock position and walk down the alley. Walk for 5 minutes and soon you will smell a really nice beefy aroma wafting from your left and you’re there. Huh, who needs GPS when you’ve got great olfactory lobes? The photo above shows the scene after you walked past it on your left. I hope this set of directions will help other travellers find the place, ‘cos boy were we lost.
When we got there the first thing was to quickly join the queue that was tailing down this really narrow and steep staircase……
And after 20 minutes, we finally made it to the front of the queue! The picture shows the whole dining area of the restaurant. It is really that tiny! The chefs were busy frying the meat just in front of the row of diners on the right side of the photo.
While still in the queue, we were shown the English menu and the waiter pointed out to us the Premium Beef Steak Set Menu that (according to him) most of the foreigners ordered. So we ordered the Tokusan Sirloin Steak Set 270g ($195) and a Matsu (High grade Japanese Beef) ($80) 270g set. The uncle promptly scooted downstairs and came up with…..
…the Holy Grail! Mmm….. somehow I thought it should be on a gilded plate or something. There was no certificate or anything like that, so I had to take his word for it that it was indeed A5 Matsuzaka Beef.
The moment I have been waiting for had come and we had before us both the Matsu set as well as the Tokusan set. Being the type of guy who usually eats the noodles first and saves the Charsiew for last, I started off by eating the Tau Gay (Bean Sprouts) first, followed by the Matsu Beef. Mind you, at around $80 for the Matsu Beef set, it was already quite an expensive steak. But what a great steak it was. Tender, beefy… yum yum…… but now the moment of truth…
OK, quite honestly, it was not quite what I expected it to be. Yes, it was the juiciest and most tender steak I ever had, but the taste did not quite blow me away as I expected that it would. I think I have come to the conclusion that Wagyu (Japanese) and Angus (US) beef are really two Cattle sic of fish, like if you were to compare Tuna with Salmon. I was expecting to be hit by a robust beefy flavour of US beef but instead I was carassed by a sweet delicate meat. In fact, unless I had them side by side, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between this Matsuzaka beef and the Australian Grade 11 Wagyu I had before. The texture, now that is a whole different story. Matsuzaka beef really does have that burst of juices when you bite into it that is second to none. It is certainly the most juicy, melt in your mouth piece of meat I have ever had.
Well, been there, done that. Although Matsuzaka was not as mind blowing as I have expected it to be, I still wouldn’t have done anything differently. However, if I were to do it again, I would certainly consider just ordering the Matsu Set. Then again……..maybe not.