When you think of yakiniku, you probably can’t help but think of strips of sumptuous, marbled wagyu beef sizzling on a grill, surrounded by salarymen in some high rise Ginza restaurant, right? It’s as Japanese as it comes, isn’t it? Wrong. Actually yakiniku [literally, grilled meat] comes from Korea, and the name was only adopted in Japan – taken from what the Japanese called western-style barbecue – following the Korean War, as a politically correct term to describe Korean barbecue that would not offend anyone coming from either side of the 38th parallel. No matter its origin, Japan has made yakiniku very much it’s own and it is one of the most popular dishes of the country’s cuisine today. As such, you can find some amazing restaurants that specialize in yakiniku, right here in Nagoya.
Here we present just a small, but excellent, selection to whet your appetite.
Over nearly four decades, Jojoen has built up a reputation for some of Japan’s finest yakiniku dining experiences and is very much at the high end of the scale. Take your pick from their superior a la carte menu or, if you are spoiled for choice, plump for their Yakiniku Kaiseki multi-course.
Here is what they have to say: “Our iconic service is second to none in a nation renowned for treating customers like royalty. The menu features an incredible selection of Japan’s famed wagyu beef and other sumptuous ingredients. We also offer superb interiors and the very best in smokeless BBQ grillers for your complete comfort.”
Toraji is another top range yakiniku restaurant that is as known for its super-thick cuts of gorgeous marbled wagyu as much it is its luxuriant setting. They have a number of courses to choose from, including select limited quantities of the finest and rarest cuts. The only problem I have with it is that I live just down the street from one of the three Nagoya branches, and every time we walk past my wife looks longingly, giving my wallet a heart attack. Fortunately, they have a cheaper lunch menu…
Here is what they have to say: “For those days when something special happened… For those days you want to celebrate someone you love… Or, just for ordinary days when you want to treat yourself! On those days and others, we at TORAJI are delighted to welcome you with the most delicious food. Our outstanding ingredients and culinary professionals, not to mention our superb hospitality, will make this a time to remember.”
There are a good number of yakiniku restaurants – both Japanese and Korean – on the BIC CAMERA side of Nagoya Station, but Jiro is probably the best. In fact, due to the top quality meat in impressive quantities and the stylish yet relaxed atmosphere, it’s my go-to yakiniku spot for when friends are visiting from out of town.
If you have an appetite, I’d recommend the 5,000 JPY course, which counts within its menu four kinds of A5 wagyu, often including a sumptuous chateaubriand. It is completed with a beef curry which, surprisingly, is my mother in law’s favorite part of the meal. For an extra 1,000 JPY, you can include an all-you-can-drink option.