You’ve probably heard of Wagyu beef. And Kobe beef. But have you heard of Hida beef?
After Hiroshima we headed to the smaller town of Takayama, a couple hundred kilometres west of Tokyo.Takayama is a pretty little town nestled in the mountains, with a river running through it. Picturesque one might say.
But as well as being pretty, Takayama is known for its beef – Hida beef to be specific, one of the class of cattle bred through the district.
We’d read about a restaurant in the Lonely Planet guide which sounded like fun. Yamatake-Shoten is a butcher shop with a difference. Upstairs is a restaurant where they serve the famous Hida beef, customers cooking it themselves over a small coal-fired grill.
So off we went, not knowing what to expect. Beef is beef, right?
After going upstairs, we rifled through a fridge full of beef cuts in plastic wrap (set up much like a freezer in a supermarket – nothing fancy at all) then chose the piece that we wanted. We were told we could take as many vegetables as we liked from the fridge so we piled up on carrots, bean sprouts, onions, eggplant, pumpkin and peppers and set it all down at our private area. As we seated ourselves on the floor, a waitress took our drink orders and filled the small grill on the table with hot red coals. She poured sauces into small bowls and mixed wasabi into soy sauce. The meat we’d chosen was brought over to us, cut up in to edible pieces.
I put Matt in charge of cooking the meat, which we’d explicitly been told “two minutes on one side, then two minutes on the other side. No more.”
We were eating late, so by this stage we were absolutely starving. We munched on the vegetables as we waited for the beef to cook. Then we took a piece each with our chopsticks and, as you do with food, we put it in our mouths.
I know this is cliche, but the meat really did melt in our mouths. We were eating it with chopsticks and there was no need to tear the meat apart with our teeth, it literally crumbled in our mouths as we bit in. The chargrilled flavour combined with the various sauces we’d been given was amazing: a true taste sensation.
An hour and a half later, $130 poorer, and barely able to move, we left very satisfied.
If you’re ever in Takayama – or anywhere else in the Hida district – I highly recommend you forget the cost and try Hida beef.