Kobe beef is surely the one food you’ll want to try when you go to Kobe, Japan, especially if it’s your first ever visit to the port city. You’ll be spoilt for choice as there are plenty of eateries throughout the city that serve Kobe beef. Price for a serving of Kobe beef steak meal usually starts from around JPY 6,000. If you’re on a rather tight budget but wish to at least “eat Kobe Beef in Kobe”, the Steakland steakhouse is one of the most popular choices.
The steakhouse has three branches near the Sannomiya Station; two of them–Steakland Kobe-kan（ステーキランド神戸館）and Steakland Kobe-ten（ステーキランド神戸店）–even are just outside the station. Add this to their already established popularity, and be prepared to see long lines in front of the restaurants. I suggest you directly call the branch you wish to dine at a few days before your expected visit. I’m not sure if they limit the number of reservations for any particular time slots. But with a reservation at hand, no matter how long the lines are, you can jump to the head, like I did. Just get into the restaurant, tell the staff you’ve got a reservation and they will confirm your name and the number of persons in your party. Bear in mind, though, that you may not be seated immediately. When I arrived for my 11.30am reservation at Kobe-ten (the one nearest to the station), I had to wait for a while because other patrons who had come at 11am when the restaurant opened hadn’t finished their meals.
The cheapest Kobe beef menu here is 150 gr “Kobe beef steak lunch”（神戸牛ステーキランチ）from the Lunch Menu, at a little over JPY 3,000. As in typical Japanese steakhouses, it’s served with rice, miso soup, salad, grilled vegetables, pickles, and coffee (you can ask for another “soft drink” such as orange juice, if you want) when you’ve finished your meal. A glass of water is served free of charge, and you can always ask for refill, though most of the time the waiters will immediately fill your glass once it’s half-empty.
I myself ordered the JPY 5,500 “Special Kobe beef steak set”（特選神戸牛ステーキセット）from the Special Menu（まんぞくセット）and asked to have it prepared medium-rare. The 200 gr steak came with soup, grilled veggies, salad, rice (I forgot to tell the waiter I’d wanted bread instead), and coffee. One tip here: if you really want to try Kobe beef, select a dish that’s got “Kobe beef” in its name. Any other steaks could be Japanese wagyu but not THE Kobe beef.
I planned to go to Kobe on a day trip and had arranged other days to visit other cities in Kansai. Alas, it was raining the whole day on that particular day when I was in Kobe. My mum and aunt decided to cut short our trip and went back to Osaka, so I didn’t have time to get around. Luckily, I managed to get a couple of these souvenir food.
Kobe pudding is basically creme caramel, a.k.a. caramel pudding. Not sure why, though, but it’s so famous that Nestle Japan, already famous for its every-flavour wafer biscuits, has its own Kobe pudding-flavoured KitKat. Country Maam soft biscuits are also available in Kobe pudding flavours. The Kobe pudding itself comes not only in the original flavour, but also in matcha (green tea) and strawberry flavours, among others. The souvenir puddings are individually packed, including each of the caramel sauce and plastic spoons inside the box.
Another specialty food of Kobe is bokkake sobameshi. Bokkake is a dish made from simmered beef and konnyaku jelly. Pour it on top of sobameshi (pan-fried yakisoba noodles and rice), and, voila! You’ve got the yin–or yang–of Kobe beef…in terms of price. While Kobe beef is a pricey dish, sobameshi is the complete opposite. Sadly, Kobe’s grumpy sky that day messed up my plan for a bokkake sobameshi dinner. Let me know if any of you were luckier. I myself will definitely go straight to a sobameshi eatery when I’m back in Kobe someday! (Another round of Kobe beef steak can wait.)