Where’s the beef??? Duh – it’s in KOBE, Japan! There were three reasons we were in Kobe: (1) work (2) the beef (3) karaoke. And not particularly in that order! Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan and sits on the Osaka Bay. Known for it’s signature marbled beef and scenic setting of mountains framing the harbor, Kobe is a fun adventurous port town with a mix of modern and tradition. In this post you will find out how we spent the most of the work trip touring this lively city! Well one of us worked and the other had too much fun eating gyoza in Izakayas!
Kobe, a meatpacking city that’s 100% quality grade ! You will find a variety of steakhouses in the city, but some stand out more than others. We decided to dine at Mouriya Steakhouse since we couldn’t get into Kokubu or Steak and Grill Meriken Hatoba. Lesson learned – make reservations more than 1 day before! There are a number of Mouriya Steakhouses around the city, so we booked the one that had a reservation available (Sannomiya). We were seated in front of an empty grill (teppanyaki style cooking) and patiently waited for our chef. The anticipation grew as we placed our order and the grill was fired up. As the oil got hot, the chef paraded into the room with his cart of deliciousness. During the course of the meal (yes – courses were involved) we tried two different cuts of kobe beef, vegetables, rice, miso soup, dessert and for the grand finale – roasted green tea! The highlight was the beef followed by the roasted green tea. Yes the tea! The way the leaves were roasted, it tasted nutty so there was no need for an espresso shot. As for Mouriya – we loved dining there, but would enjoy trying Kokubu or Steak and Grill Meriken Hatoba next time. Mouriya does it right and we had an incredible experience tasting the signature marbled beef. To note – Kobe beef isn’t cheap, so don’t expect walking out of any of these steakhouses with a decent bill. 100% worth it though!
Hyōtan has two items on the menu – gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and draft Asahi (beer). There should be no problem ordering at this small, 8 person seat establishment. Setting themselves apart, this family-owned restaurant serves their gyoza with a rich brown chunky miso instead of the typical soy-based gyoza sauce. There is a minimum of one order per person, but that isn’t a problem – you will be asking for a second order. (Well at least we did on our second visit.) The gyozas are made each morning and left in the fridge until they run out. If you are lucky like us, you will score seats at the bar upon arrival, but if you have to wait don’t worry – the line goes by fast! If you are short on time, you can take gyoza to go as well. Just do as the locals do!
Isuzu Bakery Kobe
A good bakery in Kobe – YES ! Isuzu Bakery was visited multiple times during our trip to Kobe. Having been told there is French influence in the Japanese patisseries, I struck gold finding Isuzu while T was working. The first visit was a success and the pastries were short-lived. I couldn’t help myself and devoured all the tasty treats I brought back for T to try. Sorry, not sorry! We had to re-visit Isuzu Bakery again so T could actually have a bite of this incredible babka muffin. We patiently waited outside (yep, we were there before the oven timer went off!) to get some goodies for breakfast. Though we were there too early, the good stuff wasn’t out of the oven yet. Our favorites were the sweet breads and the babka muffin. So with babka on our minds, that meant a third visit was necessary and this time I bought for a family of six thinking it would last us until the next day on the train for Tokyo. Nope, not so much. We had a sweet tooth post-karaoke that night so our plan of having lovely pastries for the train FAILED. The good thing was that we throughly enjoyed the babka muffin while lying in bed watching the videos we took that night trying to become the next American singer in Kobe. Sweets really do help emotionally!
While T worked, I decided to take a sushi power lunch in Sannomiya at Uwo Sei Main Shop where there is a lot of shops, restaurants and a major train station. The power lunch was quite interesting….First off, I had to put my name on the waitlist that was posted at the front door. Took me a while to figure out what the process was. Everything was written in Japanese, so I could only image what the hostess thought when she got to my name……Kaylen. What? Look for the tall caucasian female, nod and bow! Yep – that’s me !! Arigatōgozaimashita. I slowly walked into a room full of hungry sushi eaters and quietly sat down at the sushi bar. Warm towel delivered, I got this! Menu delivered….YIKES! All in Japanese. After a minute of staring at the menu, I pointed to the person next to me and the chef put up his fingers 5-8-10-12. I got nervous and showed him ten. TEN WHAT? Ten pieces of fish…omg! Sake please !! Fish and rolls were delivered and I started to feel warm inside (maybe it was the sake!?!) or me just getting nervous. I enjoyed the first cuts of sashimi and some rolls, but then it turned after the sixth cut of fish. Cuts got a thicker and chewer….locals loved it, I on the other hand didn’t. To note – I am very sensitive to how my sushi is prepared, so thicker cuts of raw fish don’t necessarily fancy me. At that point, I thought maybe a swig of sake would help, but that wasn’t the case. Couldn’t swallow that piece of fish in my mouth….so it ended up in that lovely warm towel I was given at the beginning of the meal. Waitress, please don’t pick up that towel! Now for my exit strategy – nod to the chef, go to the cashier and RUN! Hahah. I would haven been modified if they found that piece of fish in the towel while I was there. Successful exit and successful lunch in the fact that I had “my moment in Japan”! Besides the one piece of fish that was chewy (my problem, not theirs) I would HIGHLY recommend this restaurant. It’s filled with locals, quality fish and the prices are reasonable! Next time I will be going with someone and only order half of what I got.
Shabu-shabu Sukiyaki Komon
SHABU-SHABU! There are a ton of shabbu-shabu places in Kobe and we got the chance to dine at one of the originals – Shabu-shabu Sukiyaki Komon in Chuo. We made a reservation for dinner on our last night in Kobe. Upon arrival, we sat in a private room area with a table and cooking pot in the middle of it. A sweet grandma came into the room and started bowling the water for us. Her daughter took our order – Kobe beef please and some sake! We were treated so well and had the most enjoyable shabbu-shabu experience. The meat was ‘boiled’ to perfection and vegetables were tasty! One of the best parts about shabu-shabu is that you eat slow and pace yourself because like teppanyaki style cooking they serve you the food as its done. Don’t miss out on Shabu-Shabu – you won’t be disappointed.
Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens
Nunobiki Herb Gardens is like Disneyland for herb and plant lovers! Unfortunately, the plant lady herself (T) had to work, so I the faux plant accepter decided to enjoy the beautiful sunny day and head up the mountain to the garden. There are two ways to get there – take a gondola or hike. Normally, we would do the hike, but I had a cute outfit on and I wanted to get to the top for that herb burger everyone talked about. Gondola it was. What a lonely ride that was – I was put in a gondola by myself…..did I take it personally? YES! Everyone else boarding was put together…but of course I was the only tall caucasian that looked different from the cute Japanese groups. I looked on the bright side though – I was able to take selfies and videos without feeling embarrassed. I got some great profile pics too! Upon arrival at the top, I walked through the souvenir store that sold herbs, teas, oils and refreshments. I purchased some herb seasonings to take back with me since I love to cook – wish I got more! After the store, I journeyed down the switchback path that was lined with flowers, plants, herbs and places to sit and take in the gorgeous scenery. Half-way down, which was about lunch time I took a break and sat on the terrace and ordered the famous herb burger and a glass of wine. The herb burger did live up to the expectations…just needed some fries! The sun was out and the views looking out on to the water were pretty! Had to keep reminding myself I was in Japan. If you have a chance to go to the Herb Gardens, I would definitely make the trip. Its like an outdoor spa for the foliage people!
Nunobiki Falls Hike
Mount Rokko provides a pleasant green backdrop for the city of Kobe. We had spent some time on the mountain – the Herb Garden and then each morning a hike to the Nunobiki Falls. Our hotel was conveniently located at the base of the hike and gondola, so since we couldn’t do our 6am spin class we went for hikes to get a sweat in before our day! There are two waterfalls you can hike including a longer hike that will take you to the herb garden. We only did the Falls hike since we were cramped on time. The hike itself wasn’t strenuous – but would advise proper shoes on the trail. If you are a nature lover, would suggest taking the morning and doing this hike and if you have more time walk the longer trail – the views looked incredible!
One of the highlights of our trip was when we went to a karaoke bar on the last night after Shabu-Shabu. I couldn’t tell you the name of the place – it was down the street from our dinner that’s all I know! The sign was in Japanese and they didn’t really speak English. We walked in, checked-in at the front desk – reserved a karaoke room for 2 hours and that includes drinks. Took the elevator up to the 4th floor and then the fun began! It took us a while to figure out the remote – everything was in Japanese! After hitting random buttons, we got our first song on…thank goodness the lyrics were in English and there were a ton of American hits! Drinks please! We placed our order using the phone in the room and four minutes later our waiter was knocking at the door with our beverages. What service! Next song now! Opppss, we pressed the wrong button and were back to the original song. So we had to do that song over. Finally after a couple attempts we got Barbie Girl to play – oh yah ROCKED that song! I do think T really wanted to be a pop star – she worked that micro phone and our small audience quite well! Unfortunately we won’t be sharing any videos from this portion of the trip – its way to embarrassing and I would be sorry that you had to listen to us. It was painful to watch it the next day! 100% go to a karaoke bar if you are in Japan – its well worth the humility and the memories!
Blue Bottle Coffee
We love Blue Bottle Coffee in the states and had the chance to try it in Kobe. The coffee was tasty, the milk options were limited and the store buildout was top notch. If you are looking for a quick reliable coffee in Kobe, head to Blue Bottle! Don’t expect the different milk options though – missing the almond milk!