Mention “Kobe” and the first words that pops into my mind are “steak” (followed by “yummy”) and “Bryant” (followed by “dickhead”). So when I had a chance to take a brief detour to Kobe during my recent trip to Kyoto (about an hour on the JR), I did not miss the opportunity to sample some fine Kobe steak.
You can have Kobe steak all over Japan (and the world), but there’s nothing quite like trying the beef at the place after which it is named. There are loads of Kobe steak restaurants in Kobe, and few are as famous as the legendary teppanyaki restaurant Mouriya, which has a history of more than 120 years.
Mouriya has three restaurants along one street near Sannomiya station, and we chose to go to the Royal Mouriya. They are all pretty similar, and according to the waitress, have only slight menu variations.
At Royal Mouriya, we sat along a teppanyaki bench where the chef would cook the meal fresh, right in front of you. Don’t worry about getting your clothes smelly though — they have some magical machine that seems to suck all the smoke away.
The menu offers a range of set meals that offers salad, soup, cooked vegetables, rice, a beverage and dessert around your choice of steak. You can go with a cheaper lunch special that includes a lower quality steak that costs around 4,000 yen to 5,000 yen, or you can choose something more spectacular that will set you back more than 10,000 yen. As I understand it, dinner costs more and can go as high as 16,000 yen or more per person.
We ended up going with two mid-range sets between about 7,000 yen and 9,000 yen. One was a sirloin and the other was a rib roast, the two types with the most fat (and hence tenderness). The fillet and the rump tend to be a little tougher to chew, but still much softer and juicier than your regular steak.
I will let the photos do the talking from here. As the chef cooked the steak in three batches (to ensure they were fresh and hot when served), the plate doesn’t look quite as appetizing as it should be. But trust me, it’s awesome.
Now for the verdict. As a teppanyaki joint, Royal Mouriya is not extraordinary, as the things offered as part of the set meal are pretty much standard for teppanyaki restaurants these days. While the salad was big and fresh and the soup was very good, neither were really exceptional. The dessert was also quite underwhelming.
That said, the restaurant is famous because of its Kobe steak, and that’s what ultimately makes Royal Mouriya a standout. Their beef is every bit as good as advertised — soft, juicy, succulent, and full of flavour even without any condiments. Sliced into many thin pieces and served in batches, it feels like you are getting your money’s worth; plus you can sample the beef in many different ways.
For instance, the chef recommended first eating a slice plain, then another with just salt, before trying the sauces. In the end, I was dipping the beef all over the place, but my favourite was probably the miso-type sauce plus a dash of wasabi and a piece of roasted garlic. It was insanely good.
So on the whole, I’d still recommend Royal Mouriya (or any of the Mouriya restaurants for that matter) because you are guaranteed a quality meal and some of the best beef you are likely to ever have. The next time I go to Kobe, however, I will definitely try a different joint so I could compare.
Royal Mouriya (ロイヤル モーリヤ)
Website (with English; all Mouriya restaurants): http://www.mouriya.co.jp/indexp.html
Address: 1-9-9 Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture (short walk from Sannomiya Hankyu/JR/Hanshin station; map and directions available on website)
Phone: +81 78-321-1328
Booking is recommended (can be done online through official website)
Note: the Mouriya Head Restaurant and the Sannomiya Restaurant are both on the same street.