Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Excellent Yonezawa Beef! 3 Recommended Restaurants In Yamagata
Written by MATCHA-PR
Yonezawa beef, highly acclaimed for its delicate marbled texture, is one of the three best brands of wagyu (Japanese beef) and a favorite of Japan's Imperial family. We introduce three popular restaurants in Yamagata's Yonezawa City, where the brand cattle are raised.
Yonezawa Beef - One of Japan's Top Three Brands of Wagyu Beef
If you ask about Yamagata's fine cuisine, those who are in the know may tell you about Yonezawa beef—one of the three best wagyu (Japanese beef) brands in Japan, along with Matsusaka and Kobe beef.
The geographical features of Yonezawa are one of the reasons that their beef industry has prospered. The city sits in a basin surrounded by high mountains, like Mt. Azuma and Mt. Iide. The temperature changes drastically between day and night, and between summer and winter. This type of climate helps the cattle's growth, creating a marbled beef with melt-in-your-mouth texture.
1. Uesugi Hakushakutei: Enjoy Brand Beef While Gazing out at Japanese Gardens
This traditional building was built in 1896 as a residence for Uesugi Mochinori (*1). Although the original structure burnt down in 1919, it was reconstructed in 1925 with hinoki (Japanese cypress) and a traditionally-styled copper sheet roofing.
The garden was designed after the Hamarikyu Gardens, allowing visitors to enjoy Yonezawa beef in a truly Japanese setting.
*1 Uesugi Mochinori: The last lord of the Yonezawa-han, one of the fuedal domains during Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868).
A kimono that has been passed down through the Uesugi family is displayed at the entrance of the restaurant. A traditional karesansui garden can also be seen from the hallway.
Don't forget to enjoy the view of the beautiful garden from the dining room.
One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the Fillet Steak Zen (6,600 yen including tax). The set menu includes a 100 gram steak, two seasonal side dishes, miso soup, and rice.
The steak is cooked medium-rare because it brings out the best flavor of the meat and its fragrant drippings. Customers can appreciate the fillet's soft texture, which is unbelievably juicy and practically melts in your mouth.
The round (a cut of beef from the thigh) is used for the Roast Beef Salad (1,870 yen including tax). The dressing, made from soy sauce and onion, pairs well with the meat, making this a dish your tastebuds won't grow tired of.
2. Tokiwa: A Taste Appreciated by the Emperor Showa
Established in 1894, Tokiwa is the oldest meat shop specializing in Yonezawa beef. The fifth generation owner purchases all of the beef at auctions, meticulously checking the age, texture, and marbling of the meat.
The most popular menu item is the sukiyaki. At Tokiwa, miso made from local soybeans is added to the sweet-savory warishita (stock mixed with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar). Compared to an ordinary stock, the miso creates a richer flavor.
Those who want to try two varieties of beef (round and loin) should try the Sukiyaki Tabekurabe (5,400 yen including tax). There are fewer sashi (marbling layers of fat) in the round compared to the loin. This set menu also includes tsukemono (pickles), miso soup, and rice. The round has a firm texture in comparison to the delicate loin.
Tokiwazuke (100 grams for 2,160 yen including tax) is made by seasoning the round and loin with sake kasu (the lees left over after sake has been extracted) produced in Yamagata along with locally made miso.
This is a unique side dish that pairs well with sake. During a visit to Yonezawa, Emperor Showa tried Tokiwazuke and the Imperial family is said to have appreciated its fine taste. The dish has a firm texture perfectly balanced by the mild flavor of miso and sake.
A special sake—crafted in cooperation with the local brewery to match the beef dishes—is served at the restaurant. The bottle (180 ml) of sake, which is also named Tokiwa, is priced at 864 yen including tax. It has a refreshing aroma and dry flavor that really whets your appetite for beef.
3. Yozanko: Brand Beef at a Reasonable Price
Restaurant Yozanko is run by Yonezawa Sato Chikusan, a company operating three farms that supply fresh beef to the restaurant. Using their own farms also helps in keeping the prices low at around half the market price.
In Yonezawa, the cattle usually raised for 32 months before being placed on the market. Yonezawa Sato Chikusan raises their cattle for 33 months. This additional month helps reduce the beef odor and creates a fine marble pattern.
This is the reason for the striking marbling and delicate texture of the meat served at Yozanko.
The restaurant's popular dish is the Shabu Nabe Course (3,700 yen per person tax included).
Dip the Yonezawa beef in boiling dashi and then take it out while it's still rare! The pot is filled with vegetables like mizuna (potherb mustard), spring onions, and daikon (Japanese radish), so customers can enjoy both the crisp greens and exquisite meat. The vegetables also help cut through the meat's greasiness.
The Ushi-don (990 yen including tax) is a beloved weekday lunch menu that is limited to only 20 servings per day. The bowl of rice is topped with tender beef tips broiled over a charcoal fire, and boneless rib meat boiled in soy sauce with ginger.
Customers can appreciate both the firm, fragrant beef tips and the succulent, sweet and sour rib meat. This fragrant and flavorful dish is available for under 1,000 yen—an astonishing price for Yonezawa beef.
Yonezawa - A City in Yamagata where Visitors Can Enjoy Brand Beef
Yonezawa beef is not only well-liked around the world, but also one of the most sought-after meals for tourists. Those who wish to taste this high-quality beef at a reasonable price should visit Yamagata's Yonezawa: the origin of this beloved wagyu beef.
Please also check out the Yamagata and Niigata Sightseeing Page for additional information on Yamagata.
Written by Chen
Sponsored by Yamagata Prefecture