We went to Kobe, Japan for one main reason: to eat Kobe beef. Ira searched on top recommendations (based on taste, service and affordability) on where to eat Kobe beef. She found out that Tor Road Steak Aoyama ranks first in TripAdvisor; thus, we went all the way from Osaka to Kobe. It is very important though to have a reservation (via Facebook or call). Walk ins might not be entertained. So if you are going to Kobe just to eat in Tor Road Steak Aoyama, I strongly suggest to have a reservation.
Sannomiya Station: a good 10 – 20 minute walk to Steak Aoyama
Early morning, we rode a Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Kobe. We ended up in Sannomiya station which is a perfect 10 minute walk to Steak Aoyama. Google maps and HyperDia are very useful in our whole stay in Japan. Anyway, we got there by 0830 and our reservations is not until 1200. Thus, we had time to go around the neighborhood. We tried finding Kondetorei Kobe which was about 15-20 minute walk from Tor Road Steak Aoyama but they were temporarily closed at the time.
We returned to Tor Road Steak Aoyama by 1130. They were already open and were preparing but they asked us to come back at exactly 1200.
Steak Aoyama in Tor Road
When we entered the restaurant, we felt the hospitality of the whole family making the business work. They are so passionate with what they were doing that they value the quality of service for every customer; thus, they avoid accepting a lot of customers. They even turned walk ins away. I appreciate it that the owners put customers’ overall experience over income.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s Kitchen. You can see the chef and his parents.
About 8 persons can be seated at a time. At the time we went there, there were 3 locals, 3 Chinese and 2 Filipino (us) customers.
Once seated, we were immediately accommodated by the mother. She told us about how long they have been running their business (since 1963) and where they get their ingredients. The mother told us that the ingredients are all ordered from trusted different stores/ family businesses within the area. Like Steak Aoyama, these suppliers have been in business for generations.
The set up in the dining table was like this:
Everything had been very efficient. The mother and the father had been setting up the place while the chef son was prepping up for his performance. We were also presented with the menu which is quite limited for lunch. We did went for a lunch appointment because it is cheaper. For that day, we had this lunch set:
This was about 5,100 Yen with service charge; thus we paid 5,508 Yen separately. This included sashimi and salad appetizer, soup, kobe beef, rice or bread (we had rice), and coffee or tea (coffee for us). Ira attempted to order the only wagyu beef set because it only costs about 3,000 Yen. We then asked the chef the difference between wagyu beef and kobe beef. He exclaimed: PRICE. Apparently, kobe beef is a subtype of wagyu beef. Kobe beef is more juicy, softer and tastier according to the chef. And again, more expensive. We were not able to try wagyu beef so we can’t really attest to that. So I guess we just believed the chef and Ira continued to order the kobe set.
Appetizer. There were different sashimi here but were unremarkable. The salad’s dressing was amazing. That gave me the kick for this whole meal.
Steak Aoyama appetizer: sashimi and salad
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s appetizer: a different view of the salad and sashimi plate
Soup. The cream soup seemed unappealing. It was very simple but the taste was something I haven’t tasted before. It was light and uplifting. There was no strong taste.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s cream soup
Rice. We were given an option on whether to have rice or bread. Of course, we went for rice. The mother even showed us the company supplying them the rice. They are very proud of the rice that they have been offering customers for decades. True enough, this was the best rice I ever had. I’m not really sure if I was just eating cheap rice in the Philippines or if the rice in Japan was really different. All I can say is that the rice I tasted in Tor Road Steak Aoyama can stand on its own. This did not even need any dish to be partnered of. I could live with this rice my whole life; it was that good.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s one of a kind rice
Kobe Steak. The star of our lunch is definitely the kobe beef. The chef showed us the beef before cooking them. While the chef was cooking, he was also entertaining us and trying to make small talk. He was accommodating in a lot of ways but he mainly talked to the locals in their language.
This whole plate would be divided to Ira and I. We asked for medium rare and that was what we got.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s kobe beef
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s kobe beef. Appreciate the marbling!
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s medium rare kobe beef
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s medium rare kobe beef. My photo did not do justice on how good these beef were.
I have my favorites in the Philippines when it comes to steak but I really shouldn’t compare because they are of different categories. You know how tasty and tender Mamou’s Dry Aged USDA Prime Grade Bone-in Ribeye Steak and 28 Day Dry Aged USDA Prime Grade Porterhouse Steak? Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s kobe beef was very different from that. This was a hundred times tastier (but not salty) and a thousand times more tender. When I read about kobe beef that it will melt in your mouth, I really thought that it was an exaggeration. After tasting Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s kobe beef, I did not need to chew the beef. It dismantled on it’s own inside my mouth. Maybe that was what they meant with it melts in the mouth kind of beef.
One parameter for me to say that a beef is really tender is if the beef does not find way to strangle itself within my braces (brackets and wires). Sorry for the imaginary picture of beef strands between braces but that is my mark if a beef is really soft. Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s kobe beef is that kind of beef. You wouldn’t have to find a tooth pick or floss while or after eating here.
When the kobe beef was served, Ira and I were not talking at all. Out of respect to the chef and food offered to us, conversing was not a part of our plan while eating here. We wanted to enjoy every moment specially when the kobe beef was on our plate. It was very normal of me to talk and then eat for a very long time but this time I did not talk but still ate for a length of time. I enjoyed every piece of kobe beef. Another exaggeration, I closed my eyes while taking in each piece. I did not care what the chef or other guests would think about me but when every piece was inside my mouth, my mind automatically tapped an orchestra and played a celebratory music!
We were told to first taste the kobe beef without using the condiments at the side and then try to lightly dip the succeeding pieces on those condiments. But I’m not a fan of using condiments and I just tasted those with my spoon and did not try dipping my kobe beef pieces at all. I always wanted to eat food appreciating their own flavor without anything else.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s condiments for the beef: Ponzu sauce with radish and Himalayan sea salt. I love the ponzu sauce with radish. I wanted to drink it and ask for more.
Look at us; happy with our kobe beef! The Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s chef was cool enough to take our photo.
Coffee. Since I was taking my time with my kobe beef, I did not notice that everybody else was done with their lunch and was taking their coffee/ tea already. After the meal, we were escorted at the other tables for coffee. We were also asked if we wanted coffee or tea and we got coffee. I forgot which company supplied the coffee but this coffee was excellent! It was not as strong as Toby’s Estate but this was definitely at the level of seriously good tasting coffee. The mother also gave us a postcard showing us where we can go in Kobe. This was a really nice token.
Tor Road Steak Aoyama thought about their branding really well. See the napkin at the side. Good job on that.
After paying, we asked the family on where we can eat cheesecake. They really thought hard on where they can refer us but the mother said that there are a number of shops that offer desserts but they couldn’t really say where because they were not very good. I like her honesty.
I am satisfied with my first kobe beef experience. I have no other kobe beef experiences yet to compare but Tor Road Steak Aoyama’s experience completed my Japan 2017 trip.
Will I be a regular here? I will be coming back to Tor Road Steak Aoyama if I’m in Japan. And I will bring my family with me.
Information on Tor Road Steak Aoyama:
Yubinbango 650-0011, Chuo-ku, Kobe Shimoyamatedori 2-Chome, 14-5 0120-864858
Tel and Fax: 078-391-4858
Regular holiday every Wednesday (the next in the case of a public holiday Thursday)
Hours: 12:00 – 21:00