To get a general sense of what to do in Kobe, see “What to Do in Kobe — from Foreigners’ Perspective.”
I have a favorite steak restaurant in Kobe. It serves Kobe Beef… well, almost. I’ve just finished talking about this place to a foreign visitor. I am saving the content here for future reuse. I am not disclosing the name of this restaurant here, though. If you’re a personal friend of mine and would like to know, contact me.
Here are pros and cons of the restaurant.
- Easy access — It is within a five-minute walk from all the San’nomiya Stations of four railway/subway lines.
- Relatively affordable and very reasonably-priced — Suppose you’d like a “standard” steak dinner, then you will be paying about 12,000 yen (~$110 USD) per person or more. That may sound much and it can be even more depending on what you will have there, but this is still very reasonable compared to other restaurants given their quality of meat. In other restaurants, you could easily be paying the double or more for the same kind of meal.
- Seafood too — It is not just beef they serve. You can have seafood too (advance arrangement strongly advised). I highly recommend abalones. They are expensive, but you can share one between two people, for example.
- BYO policy — They allow you to bring your beverages. This is extraordinary for a restaurant like this and it could save you a lot of money.
- Intimate hole-in-the-wall atmosphere — The restaurant is fairly small and feels casual and intimate. They only have two iron-plate stations, one big and one small. Probably they can seat 20 people in total at most. It is managed by a chef/owner and a server (his wife) only, although they may have additional help when it is full. The chef cooks right in front of you. He is not big on theatrics, which is just the way I like it. He does not speak much English, but if you can handle Japanese, you get to hear all the interesting stories from him.
- Very flexible — The owner is very flexible and willing to work with you. When we had a gathering there, one of the participants was a vegetarian. There was not much they serve she could eat, so he allowed us to bring in a vegetarian meal for her that was prepared elsewhere.
- No Kobe Beef — They technically do not serve Kobe Beef. Just like champagne, cattle need to be raised in a certain region for their meat to be called Kobe Beef. It is the same breed of cattle (Tajima strain of Japanese black cattle, to be exact), but they are raised only a mountain away or so. The flip side of it is that you can have “almost Kobe Beef” relatively cheaply. Who cares if what you are drinking is called “champagne” or “sparking wine” as long as it is good? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a Capulet once said.
- No lunch — They don’t serve lunch. Many restaurants offer affordable lunch menu items, but no luck there.
- Advance booking needed — Since they do not have many seats, it can get full very easily. You will probably have to book way in advance.
As a side note, if you’re a devote Muslim and would like your Kobe Beef to be halal, there is a steak restaurant chain that serves just that.
If you are traveling to Kobe, this is a must read: “Yakuza Are Very Much Alive and Kicking, and It Is No Good News.”