An established butcher shop of persistently high standards
Sushi and tempura are not the only delicacies that Japan has to offer. Another treat that gourmet aficionados will surely want to try at least once when they come to Japan is wagyu beef! Known for the tenderness of the meat and the marble of perfectly balanced muscle and fat, it is a distinctive Japanese food that can be enjoyed in many forms, from sukiyaki to shabu-shabu.
For those who want the very finest meat, we recommend the Yamato Haibaragyu Ushigen restaurant. Located in Uda City, around a 1 hour train ride from central Nara, the flavors offered there attract visitors from far and wide.
Japan has its own unique classification system for beef. Based on characteristics such as the yield rate and meat quality, there are 15 ranks from C1 to A5, with the latter certifying beef of the highest standard.
At Yamato Haibaragyu Ushigen restaurant they aim to be best of the best, even within this A5 rank. They have been offering quality meats for the last 130 years, and the term “highest grade” is no exaggeration.
A veteran at the cutting edge
Eating meat started becoming a widespread habit in Japan around 140 years ago. At that time, founder of Yamato Haibaragyu Ushigen restaurant Genmatsu Takiguchi, who had studied in Matsuzaka, decided to establish the business in Haibara as the optimum natural environment for raising cattle.
Mr. Takiguchi’s mission was to spread the still unfamiliar culture of meat eating, and stimulate local industries with the development of animal husbandry facilities. Because of this, Uda City still has a great number of such facilities and is the center of the stock raising industry in Nara.
The shop is organized under the three pillars of retail, wholesale and restaurant. Though this kind of arrangement is common among high quality butchers, when we arrived after noon the tension in the air made the difference clear. Indeed, the place has been busy with the starting of an internet retail sales to the general public in 1996 and wholesale shipping to restaurants mainly in Tokyo.
“We have to be at the cutting edge of established butchers” says fifth-generation Yoshinori Takiguchi, who is driving the company by maintaining original quality while adapting the business and management styles to the needs of the day. To create ever better beef, he maintains delicate communication with livestock breeders and conducts daily research into new cutting and aging methods.
A place to visit for this one dish
Locals come on special occasions. Meanwhile, it is said that visitors come from outside prefectures to this butcher shop, quite removed from Nara City, just to try this one dish. Shabu-shabu, steak, yakinuku: the wagyu beef menu. Each is an attractive option, but for first time visitors we recommend the style that first made beef popular across Japan – sukiyaki.
Before cooking, savor the beautiful marbling with your eyes and melt the beef tallow on the hot pan. The fat will melt slowly, and as the lean meat begins to caramelize add sugar and soy sauce to enjoy the rich aroma.
Take the first bite. The sweet juice will spread gently, as will the deep savory taste of the well-raised beef. The first mouthful will be over all too soon, leaving you wanting more.
For this simple and traditional style of eating, the degree of frying and choice of seasoning will affect the flavor greatly. To enjoy the best beef in the best way, we recommend leaving preparation to the staff’s able hands.