“Wagyu is something that every meat lover should experience at least once.”

– Robb Walsh

WORLD'S BEST BEEF

It’s no secret that we Americans love our beef. When it comes to the hearty protein, there are fewer pure representations of its mark on our cuisine than a good old fashion steak. What temperature is the right one to cook a steak to is often a source of some trepidation amongst friends and family. Also adding to the great steak debate in recent years is the question of grass fed versus traditional grain fed cattle. However, whatever your stance on steak in the USA, we sadly take a backseat in quality and luxuriousness to the Japanese and their wagyu cattle.

WAGYU IMITATORS

True Japanese wagyu beef starts with a particular set of cattle species. These cows, when raised in a particular way, yield the most perfectly marbled beef you can find. This melt-in-your-mouth, ultra-flavorful beef is a prized ingredient among chefs and gourmands alike. As with any coveted ingredient, wagyu is not without its imitators. Cattle cross-bred with the Japanese species have made their way on to the market under a number of names: Washugyu, “wagyu style”, American wagyu, and Australian wagyu just to name a few. While these options are very flavorful and have greater marbling than even USDA Prime grade beef, they are not true Japanese wagyu.

KING OF KINGS

Even with the specific Japanese wagyu types, different prefectures in Japan raise their cattle to different specifications. Variation in the cattle raised has led to a more precise grading system for wagyu beef. If you are interested in learning more about wagyu grading, please refer to this article for more information. The highest grade possible for Japanese wagyu, a veritable king of kings, is A5.

In Japan there are several restaurants that specialize in cooking Japanese wagyu beef. However, only a few will exclusively utilize the coveted A5 grade cuts. This is in large part due to cost, as this level of beef often rings in at nearly $30 USD per ounce. For my recent trip to Japan I was looking to enjoy an amazing yakiniku experience while in Tokyo. A chef friend of mine recommended I try Yakiniku Jambo Hanare.

This small restaurant offers a menu of only A5 Kuroge (Japanese Black cattle breed) wagyu beef. Apart from the various cuts of beef, there are a few side dishes available mostly dedicated to providing acidity to help give some refreshment to the palate. I opted to get a side of kimchee and some soup, which definitely helped to provide some breaks in the otherwise heavily luxurious meal.

"Zabuton" - A butcher's cut from the chuck area

A cut recommended by our server, the zabuton or “little pillow” in Japanese, is an often overlooked section of beef in normal cattle. This cut from the chuck area is not popular or well known, but is one of the most delicious sections of the cow. Our server instructed us to cook these slices on the grill for no more than 10 seconds per side, achieving a light sear. When you eat the zabuton, it literally melts in your mouth. Just look at the insane level of marbling!

Noharayaki - Thin sliced sirloin wagyu, served with a raw egg for dipping

One of the favorites of diners at Jambo Hanare, these thin slices of wagyu beef are seared on the grill for a few seconds then rolled. You then dip them into a raw, beaten egg before eating. The fatty and tender beef again melts in your mouth. The flavor of the raw egg yolk enhances the beef and adds another level of luxuriousness to the bite. This is what I wish breakfast could be everyday.

Thin slices of wagyu beef are placed atop sushi rice to form these wagyu nigiri. The sushi rice, flavored with vinegar, helps to balance the fatty beef and provide a welcomed levity to each bite as you chew.

100g order of Wagyu chateaubriand

Filet mignon, cut from the tenderloin of the cattle, is a prized cut of steak that is renowned for its tenderness. Chateaubriand is taken from the center cut of the tenderloin and is the premium section of the entire muscle. Jambo Hanare serves steaks cut from the chateaubriand in 100g increments. The steak is beautifully marbled. It is so tender that even after cooking it can barely hold together when picked up with your chopsticks. Although not as fatty as other cuts, this steak had the most amazing tenderness and still packed an elevated level of flavor over your standard filet mignon.

Wagyu fat rice topped with wagyu steak

This last dish is one that you must order in advance. I placed the order through my hotel’s concierge (who also booked my reservations for me) and I am so very glad I did as this was the standout dish of the night. Rice cooked with wagyu fat is topped with an entire steak’s worth of beef. The dish is served hot in an enamal pot, crisping the edges of the rice and keeping the entire dish warm. After spooning some of the rice and beef into a bowl, fried onion bits are sprinkled on top adding texture and flavor. This is the most delicious flavored rice dish I have ever had. The wagyu fat does wonders for the rice. Each bite is loaded with beefy deliciousness and you know with each spoonful that you’re enjoying something truly special.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Yakiniku Jambo Hanare is not for the faint of heart or those of small appetites. Even though we ordered just a few dishes, I left feeling completed stuffed; a welcomed side effect from enjoying a meal entirely based on the best beef the world has to offer. I have been very fortunate to enjoy many meals that include or are centered on wagyu beef, but none more delicious or memorable so far as Yakiniku Jambo Hanare.

I was seated at the counter overlooking one of the kitchens where they cut and prepare the beef. As such, service was prompt and attentive. The restaurant has a laid back atmosphere, but can come off as intimidating for those that don’t speak Japanese. The menu has some limited English, but doesn’t necessarily have the literal or best translations. I’d recommend looking online at TripAdvisor or other resources so you can have your order in mind when arriving to the restaurant.

Niche restaurants, especially those that focus on a luxury ingredient, are hard to assign a relative value score to. So, in order to aid me in assigning a practical score for value I used a little math. Dinner with one drink and a few side dishes came out to about $300 USD. When I add up all the beef we had, I estimate we had roughly 15 ounces of beef. This works out to $20 per ounce, which is below the average price I would expect for Japanese A5 wagyu beef. This measurement, combined with the fact that my meal was incredibly delicious, means that Yakiniku Jambo Hanare is an amazing value for this type of meal.

SCORECARD

Food 100/ 100
Service 85/ 100
Atmosphere 80/ 100
Price Value 95/ 100
Overall Score 92/ 100

Yakiniku Jambo Hanare
1F, 3-27-9 Hongo Bunkyo
Tokyo, Japan
Ph: +81-3-5689-8929
https://yakiniku-jambo.com/