Best Savored at the Source
A Gourmet Guide to Matsuzaka Beef
One of Japan's three big wagyu brands, Matsuzaka beef is undoubtedly delicious, but also expensive. Here we feature some local Matsuzaka restaurants that serve the finest Matsuzaka meat at accessible prices, in relaxed surroundings.
Photos: Shingo Shiokawa, Takahiro Takami Text: Shinobu Nakai
The high quality of this attractively marbled meat is obvious. From front, top-grade lean meat (1450 yen), (left) Broiled meat (2300 yen), premium chuck (2500 yen), (top right) premium short rib (1750 yen). Meat is grilled on a shichirin charcoal grill, allowing excess fat to run off.
Manager Masamoto Ota wants customers to “Enjoy the different flavors of various cuts of the finest beef”.
Established fifty-four years ago, this yakiniku barbecue restaurant buys an entire Matsuzaka cattle beast and uses every part of the animal to offer meals at affordable prices. What makes Isshobin so special is that it serves not only delicacies such as premium marbled chuck and short ribs, but also a wide range of offal (horumon) – for which freshness is key – including the often elusive small intestine, which is meaty and tender. The key to Isshobin’s unique taste is the restaurant’s miso sauce, made to the same secret recipe used 54 years ago. When the restaurant first opened, offal was not widely consumed, and this miso-based sauce was concocted as a way to make it tastier and more palatable. The skill of Isshobin’s staff when it comes to cutting meat into different thicknesses and sizes by part also distinguishes it as a place that really knows its meat. A chain of twelve restaurants across Mie Prefecture serve up the same fresh flavor every day.
232-3 Minami-cho Matsuzaka
Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 （Last orders）
Open every day
Matsuzaka beef nigiri, 800 yen each. Savor the flesh between shoulder and ribs with some salt or wasabi.
Shuichiro Kondo, the fourth generation in the business. Shuichiro returned to his family’s sushi operation after honing his skills at sushi restaurants in Osaka and overseas.
Established in 1951, Sushiman serves sushi made using the finest seasonal ingredients, with an emphasis on seafood from Ise Bay. At present the restaurant is run by third and fourth generation members of the family. Youthful manager Shuichiro Kondo says he buys Matsuzaka beef daily from a trusted supplier. Fresh A5-grade meat from between shoulder and ribs, which can also be eaten as sashimi, is seared and served as nigiri-zushi. The fat is at just the right temperature to starts dissolving on first bite, and the exquisite flavor is complemented by tangy vinegared rice and wasabi. Other popular items include gyutoro-maki beef rolls, made using the more luxuriously fatty meat, and Matsuzaka beef broth. The restaurant has many regulars who agree that when it comes to Matsuzaka beef sushi, Sushiman cannot be beaten.
14 Hiraomachi Matsuzaka Yumenoki-dori
Hours: 11:00 – 13:30 （Last orders）
17:00 – 21:30 （Last orders）
Closed on Thursdays
“Oka” Western-style meat cuisine
Owner Isao Oka says the restaurant only uses Matsuzaka beef personally inspected and approved by himself. The vital thing, he adds, is to procure the best meat for one’s own cooking. The meat used for Mr. Oka’s steaks is aged in-house for about 20 days to further concentrate the umami. It is then cooked and rested, cooked and rested some more to calculated perfection, and checked to ensure it is cooked as requested, bearing in mind that it will continue to cook a little on the hotplate after delivery to the table. An Oka fillet steak cuts like butter, and dissolves in the mouth, fragrantly and without fuss. The seasoning of finely-crushed sundried salt is also outstanding: the finishing touch to an ultimate steak that requires no sauce of any kind.
Isao Oka took over the business from his father after training at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo. Putting his heart and soul into offering the finest steaks, he is dedicated to sourcing the best ingredients.
200g fillet steak flambéed in sake and served with butter. Served with soup, salad and bread or rice (8000 yen, incl. tax)
115-20 Uchigomagari-cho, Matsuzaka
Hours: 11:00 – 14:20 （Last orders）
17:00 – 20:20 （Last orders）
Closed on Tuesdays and the second
Wednesday of each month
The premium Matsuzaka beef sukiyaki ranges in price from 9700 – 21800 yen per head. This photo shows meat priced at 15800 yen per person. The perfect balance of lean and fatty meat makes for a melt-in-the-mouth dining experience. The beef is cooked first, followed by the vegetables, tofu, etc., then the meat juices are poured over rice to finish, ensuring that none of the meat’s umami is wasted.
Matsuzaka beef for flavor and aroma Kameya
Owner Mikiko Nishimura. The kaeshi, rich yet with a clean aftertaste, is made according to a family recipe known only to her.
Since opening in 1948 under the slogan of “Matsuzaka beef for flavor and aroma”, Kameya has dealt solely in A5-grade Matsuzaka beef. In addition to sukiyaki, the restaurant tempts beef lovers with a Western-style menu that includes steaks and hamburger steaks. Kameya’s reputation as a favorite of celebrities, including film director Yasujiro Ozu and Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic) is testament to its capabilities. The “premium Matsuzaka beef sukiyaki” uses beautifully-marbled chuck steak, cut thick for extra meatiness. Seasonings consist of just sugar and kaeshi (flavoring base) made to a secret family recipe. Fat melts away from the meat, leaving an intensity of flavor that will keep you coming back for more.
508-4 Kyomachi Matsuzaka
Hours: 11:30 – 20:00
May close earlier to prepare for next day’s business, or if sold out.
Open every day (closes irregularly as circumstances require)