A visit to Japan often means a heavenly food trip. It isn’t unusual to walk through the streets of Osaka and long to eat everything in sight. Whether it at a premium dining restaurant serving only the finest raw fish the country has to offer, or stumbling upon an open grill on the street in which the vendor is grilling generous cuts of wagyu beef on a stick, the country is a food lover’s haven. I remember a recent trip to Osaka. Shopping was fun, but it is the food that has me coming back for more. I recall eating a tall serving of soft served ice cream on the street, and then instantly stopping when I smelled the aroma of freshly made takoyaki a few vendors down. There was a long line, and I took that as a sign that they most probably serve the best takoyaki the city had to offer…and they did, they really did. An hour’s wait in line was excruciating, after seeing foodie after foodie enjoying their meal. But ultimately, it was worth it.
I remember eating sashimi, tempura, and unlimited servings of tender tonkatsu. There was even a point where I’d throw on my coat over my pajamas (in the dead of the winter) to try and catch the last stock of okonomiyaki at a small kiosk around the corner of my hotel. It was five days of gastronomical bliss. However, there was one restaurant that I’ve been dreaming off since that trip: Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, the countrywide premium restaurant whose specialty is to serve mouthwatering, marbled Matsusaka beef in all its glory. It is a dining experience like no other, and I highly recommend it to meat lovers visiting Osaka (although there are multiple branches in different parts of Japan. Check out their website for a complete list of addresses).
Right off the main road of the famous Dotonbori street, one can find the slim building in which Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M is located. It is almost impossible to be seated at the restaurant without a prior reservation due to its popularity with both locals and tourist. If you get there early, it is recommended to have a drink at the Sake bar downstairs while waiting. There is pure joy in the frozen Sake. The presentation of the alcoholic beverage is complete with theatrics, with a server coming by your side and pouring it into a glass where it magically freezes before your eyes. After a good two or three aperitifs, one is escorted to the second floor which houses multiple private dining rooms.
The popular tasting set menu of Yakinuku M is suggested when ordering. This allows diners the opportunity to taste all of the different cuts of the cow. Prices vary depending on the number of people you are with. Matsusaka beef is from Japanese Black cattle from the Matsusaka region of Mie. The high fat to meat ration cow is considered one of the “three big beefs” in Japan (the others being Kobe beef and Omi beef). These cows are raised under strict conditions. All cows must be a virgin female, which takes roughly three years to mature. All beef is sold in stores owned by the Matsusaka Beef Cattle Association, which certifies the quality of the beef to ensure its high value. Although Matsusaka Beef can be served in a variety of ways such as steak or shabu shabu, Yakiniku M allows customers to try a variety of cuts of the premium meat cooked over a grill. It ranges from the shoulder all the way down to the short rib. Customers grill it themselves after a crash course from very knowledge servers.
The experience of eating Matsusaka beef at Yakinuku M is a special one. Each cut has its own taste. What each cut has in common is that it is delicious. The marbling on the red, raw meat is already mouthwatering to look, even before it is cooked. Tip: don’t keep it too long on the grill. The idea is to get the outer layer of beef to brown, but keep the inside rare and flavorful. A variety of sauces and specialty side dishes are served with the course that enhance the flavors. Don’t forget to order your beer or other cocktails to finish up the entire experience.
After the meal, it isn’t usual for the friendly manager Kuni to come and greet you at your table. He asks whether or not your enjoyed your meal and goes as far as giving you other food recommendations to try around the area. Although you will certainly listen to Kuni’s suggestions, the memory of your meal at Yakiniku M will live on in your memory. The food is not pretentious. In fact, it is just grilled meat. But this meat was raised with such care and precision that each bite feels like a little bite of the country’s very rich food culture. The food and flavors speak for itself.
For reservations and more information visit https://www.matsusaka-projects.com/english/
By Chino R. Hernandez
Featured image courtesy of Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M’s website