In the world of Wagyu there are so many brands worth sampling. Tokyo has them all. Restaurants specialize in sourcing the best. On a recent visit, I check off another major luxury brand from my list: Yamagata-gyu.
Yamagata Prefecture in the north of Tohoku is home to uniquely picturesque skiing and hot springs, and is the only prefecture to be designated by the World Trade Organization with “geographical indication” for its high quality sake. It is also fast becoming known for its high quality wagyu beef. In Tokyo, the best restaurant to savour this indulgence over a grill is called Han No Daidokoro, in Shibuya.
Window seating overlooks the intersection below as it pulses with pedestrian traffic. Elegant rooms provide privacy. Counter seating with personal yakiniku grills offers a front row view into the open kitchen as chefs prepare their variety of wagyu options for our grilling. A leather bound menu is embossed with the number 43. Why? Because there are 43 parts to the cow, and this kitchen uses them all. The entire A5 cow is sourced from one farm only, Tamura Chikusan, a pristine environment in which a healthy, stress free lifestyle is maintained with specialized feed, spacious barns and exercise.
A diagram of the cow shows all the cuts available, and the Yamagata Beef Assortment features the greatest range: Rib Cap; Eye of Round; Shoulder; Top Blade; Spencer Roll; Flank; Bottom Flap; Rump; Lower Thigh; and Sirloin Butt. Each cut elicits different characteristics. Some require light searing, some more grilling. Twenty marbled pieces are set before me with three dipping sauces: yuzu, wasabi and soy sauce. This allows me to experiment and compare the tenderness and flavour profiles of all ten different parts–each one from the same cow. It’s a deliciously unique experience, and I’m happily surprised by the range of softness and juicy robust flavours. For the daring, there is also a vast menu of wines, sake and shochu for pairing.
With a menu punctuated by beef sushi, an assortment of beef sashimi and tartar, generously portioned and gently priced, Han No Daidokuro truly is a carnivore’s dream, and easily accessible for any visitor to Tokyo who craves an A5 wagyu experience.
Han No Daidokuro, 2-29-13, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0043 (Japanese Address: 〒150-0043 東京都渋谷区道玄坂2-29-13)
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.