Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Hida Beef Craze

As we traveled through the mountainous area of Gifu Prefecture, one thing we couldn’t miss was the sight of restaurants serving the famous Hida-gyu, the local beef breed from the black haired cattle known for its taste and excellent meat texture and also one of the most coveted wagyu types.

Apart from the two nights at the onsen ryokans when we had hida-gyu as our dinner main courses, we also had a few beef meals around the area. One of them was at a restaurant called Maruaki. Maruaki probably started off as a butcher shop in the area before branching out with a chain of restaurants serving what they sell. The one we went was their Takayama branch at a street corner just a couple blocks between the old town and the train station, with the shop front facing the street and the restaurant at the back through the side entrance.

We went for an early lunch to avoid the crowd and were seated right away at the table on the ground level. Yakiniku (grill) style seems to be more popular choice among the customers - at least from our observation - but instead we opted for the sukiyaki menu. Their menu has various price point depending on the grade of the meat, and this time we opted for the supreme grade, which is the highest they offered. It came with a plate-full of beef, thinly sliced with perfectly marbled fat, and plenty of vegetables on a separate plate.

We need to cook ourselves with the pot placed in front of us, with printed English instruction for those who’s not familiar with the traditional way of preparing sukiyaki. I thought everything came in generous portion – it filled the entire pot as we carefully placed the ingredients in in order, and finished with a drizzle of the special sauce on top. Nothing too fancy about the restaurant but this is a satisfying meal for meat-lovers like us.

When? June 10 2019
Maruaki Hida-Takayama, 6-8 Tenmanmachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
丸明 高山店 岐阜県高山市天満町6-8
Web: www.hidagyu-maruaki.co.jp

Whoever started this trend of beef nigiri sushi in the touristy area of Takayama certainly deserves a marketing award - it's simple, easy to serve, easy to eat, and appeal to the masses - the couple of shops standing across from each other along the old streets of Takayama drew the biggest crowd of customers, but our choice was another one just a few blocks away. Kyoshi sat just a block away from the old town in Takayama – it’s a proper sit-down restaurant with a casual all-day menu, and on the side, there’s a booth selling sushi made a la minute. Our mini sushi set came with two pieces of nigiri sushi, served with a thick slice of seared raw Hida-gyu on top, plus a few pieces of beef sushi rolls wrapped in nori. All of those were served on a senbei (rice cookies) which doubled as a “plate” to hold the sushi. Just the right snacks to have while strolling through this touristy town.

When? June 9 2019
Kyoshi, 2-82 Honmachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
梗絲 岐阜県高山市本町2-82
Web: www.kyoushi.co.jp

Our quick ride to the town of Furukawa was ruined by the heavy rain that kept falling all morning, but at least we got the opportunity to stop by for a wonderful casual lunch at a restaurant called Matsuri, not far away from Enkoji Temple and the Shirakabe Dozogai Street, both popular sightseeing spots. The restaurant resembles any typical shokudo, with its specialty being hida beef donburi, and one could choose by the size of the bowl (and food). Probably sounded a bit insulting to compare this with the beef rice bowl at Yoshinoya but this was 10 times better but not much more pricier, to be honest. We also ordered a few pieces of beef nigiri to share – the beef was fattier than the one we had earlier in Takayama and served with a simple dab of grated ginger, scallions and a gentle brush of soy sauce. As the town sat right between Kanazawa and Takayama, I reckon this is a good spot to stop by for a meal break if you happened to drive in between the two towns.

When? June 10 2019
Matsuri, 15-6 Ichinomachi, Furukawacho, Hida, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
飛騨牛専門店祭 岐阜県飛騨市古川町壱之町15-6
Web: (Tableog) tabelog.com/gifu/A2104/A210402/21016170/

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