Wagyu and Kobe Beef in Seattle

Grant YDecember 2nd, 2008
By: Grant Y

(Page 2 of 2)

Though American kobe beef rates lower than authentic Wagyu, there is still a strong demand for the product. Before the ban, Japanese consumers were actually the ones buying up the majority of the kobe styled beef, due to its greater availability and reduced price.

If you think it odd that Japanese patrons would pass up on authentic kobe for the American substitute, you might be more understanding when told that real kobe beef can cost a staggering $300 per pound, while it's kobe style counterpart is only a third that. Convictions, it seems, are fast traded for a cheaper alternative at those prices.

Kobe Beef in Seattle

To get more insight about kobe beef, I interviewed Chef Takao Saito, head chef and owner of Kobe Sushi, Sake and Robata in Bellevue. Opened six months ago, the restaurant specializes in its namesake of kobe beef and Japanese cuisine.

"Many people think all Japanese beef is kobe beef." Chef Saito says, when asked about common kobe beef misconceptions. He adds, "I don't think it's easy to tell the difference," referring to the confusing branding between kobe, Wagyu and kobe style beef.

At Chef Saito's restaurant, he only serves Miyazaki Wagyu, which is 100% pure bred Wagyu beef, raised and imported from Japan. The Miyazaki branding requires that all animals be given a name, receive pure grain feed and be free of growth hormones and implants. When asked about his thoughts about kobe styled beef, he remarks that they are two wholly separate meats. Naming off a well known Australian kobe beef exporter, he tells me that the marbling is oily instead of fatty, while the meat "tastes like grass". Though Chef Saito might have his own agenda for disavowing kobe styled beef, he does praise a number of American distributors, such as Snake River Farms, who he says is quite good.

A Certificate of Authenticity for Wagyu beef A Certificate of Authenticity for Wagyu beefA Certificate of Authenticity for Wagyu beef
A Certificate of Authenticity for Wagyu beef

Beckoning at me, Chef Saito's eyes gleam for a moment as he tells me to sit and wait while he grabs something. After a minute, Chef Saito comes back with distributor supplied Certificate of Authenticity that is an impressive biography of the specific Wagyu beef he is serving. The certificate includes the cow's name, grading, weight, breed, parents, owner, birthday, a cross section of the meat and even a nose print of the mammal for good measure. If there were any doubts of the authenticity of the Wagyu, this certificate certainly dispels it.

I ask Chef Saito about the demand for Wagyu and whether or not patrons balk at the $10/oz prices for this exotic meat. He smiles when he tells me that with over hundreds of customers, he has never once had a complaint. The conclusion that one could also draw is that kobe is one of those treats that if you can afford it, you're probably not worried about price to begin with.

Besides Kobe Sushi, Sake and Robata, there are a few Seattle restaurants that serve authentic Wagyu beef, and even more that serve kobe styled beef. If you want to taste true Kobe beef however, Chef Saito says it will cost you a plane ticket to Japan; or if that is too expensive, "then come see me," he laughs.

PreviousPage 2 of 2
Articles in Series
  1. The Real Beef on Kobe Beef
  2. Wagyu and Kobe Beef in Seattle
Chef Saito with a large chuck of  Miyazaki Wagyu
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