If you’re a meat lover, chances are you’ve heard about Kobe beef. Often considered the best meat in the world, it is not the only succulent meat that can be found in Japan. Yonezawa’s beef is just as renowned among those knowledgeable about Japanese meat. Together, Kobe, Yonezawa and Matsusaka beef hold the title of the three best beef cuts in Japan.
Origin of Yonezawa Wagyu
Yonezawa Beef is one of the most famous types of premium beef in Japan, and is found in Yamagata Prefecture. In fact, there is even a statue of the Yonezawa cow at the Yonezawa Station. The beef is prized for its fine marbling, resulting in a very soft and succulent texture.
The taste of Yonezawa Beef was first discovered by a British man. In 1871, the ninth generation lord of the Yonezawa Domain, Uesugi Yozan, started a school to give everyone a chance to receive education regardless of their social status. A trade merchant who was living in Yokohama named Charles Henry Dallas was then invited to the school as an English teacher. During those days, four-legged animals were not eaten in Yonezawa, yet Dallas wanted to get a taste of his hometown. He thus asked Mankichi, the cook he’d brought with him from Yokohama, to make a dish using the Japanese Black beef of Yonezawa. Surprised by its great taste, when he left Yonezawa after finishing his term, Dallas took one of the Yonezawa cattle with him to Yokohama. He served the beef to his peers and it garnered high praise, which helped spread Yonezawa Beef’s name all over the country.
As we can see in this anecdote, the Yonezawa cattle back in those days were not raised for meat production. People in the Yonezawa region bought two to three year old cattle from the southern part of Iwate prefecture and bred them for farming and transport purposes. The fact that the cattle were raised in harsh climate conditions for a long time and with the love of local people, who treated them as part of their family, made the quality of meat superior to others. Even to this day, farmers raise each of their Yonezawa cattle with great love.
A la carte
Founded in 1912, Yonezawagyu Oki is one of those wagyu beef purveyors (like Imahan) that has opened their own restaurants specialising in top quality Japanese wagyu.
山形名物玉こんにゃくと牛すじ煮 Yamagata tama-konnyaku and beef tenderloin stew – Yamagata’s traditional local cuisine known as “tama-konnyaku,” or “jewel konnyaku,”
is an indispensable part of any festival or celebration. Spherical pieces of konnyaku are boiled in a fish stock and soy sauce mixture and served on a skewer, resembling the familiar Japanese treat, dango.
Combining the tama-konnyaku and yonezawa wagyu tenderloin slices in a perfect stew with mushrooms, this was the picture perfect Yamagata home-style cooking.
米沢牛イチボ炙り もも肉霜降り 生湯葉のお造り風 Yonezawa Beef Ichibo (H-bone) Aburi, Seared Uchimomo Marbled Round, and Fresh Bean Curd Sashimi – the beef weren’t exactly raw like a tartare. The uchimomo was lightly blanched and the ichibo was aburi.
もも肉霜降り Seared Marbled Round – this piece of meat was extremely tender.
Yonezawa beef supreme sukiyaki course
Every course in this special sukiyaki course featured the Yonezawagyu in one way or another. From the amuse bouche that used braised beef withe cold spinach, to the wagyu beef sushi, to the star attraction the sukiyaki, the only course without the beef was the dessert 🙂
- 冷汁 Amuse bouche – the sauce was a ponzu sauce.
- 前菜三点盛 3 types of Appetisers – the 3 appetisers came with different presentation of the beef. Vinegar mozuku seaweed, braised wagyu brisket, and wagyu pot roast.
- 米沢牛大とろ炙りとローストビーフ寿司 Yonezawa beef sushi – aburi and roast beef – two pieces of beef sushi, one was given a quick sear by blowtorch in a Japanese sushi technique called aburi, and the other was a roast prime rib cut smothered with a tangy plum sauce. The high temperature of the aburi released the oil of the wagyu and gave the sushi a smokey finish.
- すき焼き肉 Sukiyaki meat – the cut we got was 米沢牛特選ロース special loin cut.
- 野菜一式 Set of vegetable
- みそだれ、卵 Misodare and egg
- ごはん、みそ汁又はうどん、お新香 Rice+Miso soup/Udon, Pickles
- 水菓子 Dessert
How to eat sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is a nabemono (hotpot) consisting of meat slowly cooked and simmered in a sweet and savoury sauce at your tableside.
Firstly, the sukiyaki beef was placed on the table. Tonight’s beef was 米沢牛特選ロース Yonezawagyu Special Loin Grade A5. This is the top grade of beef (A) in Japan with excellent marbling (5).
What we had was the Kanto-style of sukiyaki, where everything is cooked at the same time. The service staff took the piece of wagyu fat and greased the cast iron pot with the fat. Only cast iron is used for sukiyaki, not the copper or earthen pot that could be used for shabu-shabu.
Typically, a selection of vegetable is served with sukiyaki. This would be an assortment of mushrooms, leeks, mizuna ミズナ（水菜）, tofu and shirataki noodles.
Everyone was given a raw egg. One would whipped the egg and used it as a dip. In Singapore, I would usually skip this step. The eggs used were watery and not really tasty. But the Japanese egg that came with the meal was bright yellow (radioactive?) and really tasty. It was like the eggs we sued to have when we were children, a time when farming was not so industrialised.
The beef was fantastic. The serving was ample, unlike Imahan where we have to order extra, but Imahan and others have even better food. We had to skip the udon given the amount of food served. However, the service was the highlight of the meal. We were well taken care for the evening, and the waitress tried her best to speak English to us.
Yonezawagyū Ōki Tōkyō
JR 東京駅 丸の内1-9-1 八重洲北口黒塀横丁 B1F
Chiyoda, 東京都 〒100-0005 Japan
Tokyo Station, Tokyo Station Yaesu, First Avenue Tokyo Station, Otemachi Station
Tel : +81 50 5591 0351