Of Cows & Men
Imagine a restaurant whose entire concept revolves around serving you one meal dedicated to one premium ingredient. Now, imagine that ingredient to be a delicious and highly prized wagyu. These cows, raised on Ishigaki and Yonaguni islands in the southernmost part of Japan that’s so far removed from the hyper-energetic pace of the nation’s sprawling cities that the islands are only a boat ride away from Taiwan, become a special kind of wagyu. These islands are collectively known as Yaeyama and are such a tropical paradise that the cows raised there live extraordinary lives before becoming cherished cuts of beef.
It is there, in this idyllic environment, that Kyori Beef comes from. And it is at Wagyu Kappo Yoshida that you can indulge in this phenomenal protein in all its glory through a multi-course meal designed to showcase the nuance of Japanese cooking styles and the versatility of Kyori beef. Or should I say veal, since the restaurant’s chef – Junichi Yoshida – prefers to use younger cows due to their lower fat content. This makes perfect sense when having an extravagant dinner spanning over 10 courses.
In fact, because I’m no stranger to having extravagant multi-course meals, I fasted for 23 hours before sitting down for dinner here. And what a wise decision that was, for the meal was all I needed for the day. Nutrition and calories included.
Dining omakase at this culinary temple to wagyu will exact a high price, coming in at RM1188++ per person. Yes, it’s a high price to pay, but it’s understandable when you factor in the beef’s pedigree, the chef’s skill, and the sleek restaurant.
So should you save up and spend? If you think buyer’s remorse will not strike and if you really really love wagyu and want an entire Japanese meal to showcase it in various ways. Then yes.
Before you start saving up or intend to pull the trigger, perhaps my experience can help you make that decision for yourself. Here’s a quick look at the menu before we jump in.
All caught up? Let’s begin.
The meal began ceremoniously with a showing of what I would enjoy that night, with different cuts of Kyori beef and a melange of vegetables shown (pictured above) before the first course arrived.
First up, beef consommé. Taking six hours to make using the neck and rump before topping with gold leaf for that touch of luxury, the consommé was just the opening salvo my body craved after having nothing but black coffee and green tea the entire day. That rich, beefy aroma gave way to a clean, comforting, and nutritious broth that was neither too bold nor weak. A Goldilocks situation, if you will.
A trio of appetisers came next – beef tataki, gyunikomi, and juwari soba. I ate these dishes clockwise, starting with the dish at the five o’clock position, so that’s the order I’ll be taking too.
The beef tataki, already a killer dish in my books, was served with onion, myoga (torch ginger), and oba leaf. Savoury, incredibly tender, and slightly fatty, the thinly sliced slab of flame-kissed Kyori beef made a strong first impression on the palate. The mixture of greens adds sharpness, tanginess, a subtle hint of mint, and umami to the scene, creating one biter that more than pleases.
Gyu nikomi, a traditional Japanese beef tendon stew, gave me yet another way to savour this divine bovine. Stewing the wagyu allows for melt-in-your-mouth beef, similar in texture and style to one of my favourite Cantonese dishes of all time – Hong Kong braised beef brisket. It’s another one-two pow that showcases that high-quality ingredients rarely require much manipulation to shine. In this case, a soy dashi broth.
The odd one out seemed to be the Juwari soba, using shirasu and ikura instead of wagyu. This curveball all made sense only after I took a bite. Juwari soba, a premium Hokkaido soba using 100% buckwheat flour, was present and last on the order of dishes to refresh and impress with flavours of the sea. The soba, any interestingly wavy noodle instead of the more typical spherical and cylindrical shape of soba that we commonly see, gave of a lovely clean and elegant wheat texture with a slight bounce. Shirasu and ikura were present to add salinity and flavour alongside the light dashi served with the soba.
It was only the third course, yet my appetite was rearing to go. Clearly, that was a good sign that things were progressing swimmingly.
Beef Chirashizushi With Caviar
This act of marrying both delicacies of earth and sea continued with the next course – beef and Kaluga Queen caviar chirashizushi. Cleverly nestled in the rice were bits of finely chopped ginger to balance the raw meat. The bold act of including such a prominent spice seemed counterintuitive on paper, as it may upset the delicate nature of the caviar. Still, such was the finesse of the kitchen team that it never felt overbearing, nor did it tamper with the taste of that beloved black roe.
The seasoned koshihikari rice was also similarly delicious, with a slightly chewy, slightly dense texture that acts as the perfect canvass for that fatty, juicy wagyu. Yoshida’s decision to only use veal for the entire meal also started to make sense, as such a beef can still bring flavour without taxing the palate after a few mouthfuls. The cherry on top of this is the caviar, which brings that wonderfully light and elegant salinity to round out the wagyu’s richer, red-blooded taste.
Beneath the beautifully lacquered bowl also rests an equally beautiful mat made from cuts of what I’d like to think was a gorgeous kimono, its dark blue colour and floral motif contrasting the ruby hues of the bowl.
Completely necessary to serve on the menu thanks to its overwhelming popularity worldwide is the gyukatsu sando. What’s not to like about a trimmed slab of meat sandwiched between fluffy Japanese-style bread?
Yoshida’s tenderloin sauce was simple and precise, featuring a special homemade sauce and charcoal bread. It was meaty, it was flavourful, and it was enjoyable. What more can I say?
The next dish – shabu-shabu – throws an Italian curveball into the workings of what I would say is already an unorthodox soup base. Here, the chef briefly cooks the thin slice of meat from the rib in a shiro (white) miso broth that cheekily hides enoki. Emboldening the dish is that Italian twist I mentioned earlier, Parmesan, which surprisingly works wonders to add additional dimensions of umami to an already umami broth. Yuzu rinds and a touch of shichimi smartly keep things from being too savoury.
All in all, a brilliant and warming course.
It’s worth noting that we had a junmaishu to pair with the meal. The Kunisaki Junmai 55 from Oita had an incredibly appetising rice aroma and a clean and somewhat punchy umami taste on the palate at the end. Diners will also get to choose their ochoko before the wine is served, which is always a nice touch.
This versatile and highly enjoyable sake went swimmingly with every course, rounding out and enhancing every mouthful with its sultry, smooth taste. What a treat.
Charcoal Grilled Gyutan
You can’t have a meal dedicated to wagyu without serving gyutan (beef tongue). It simply isn’t possible. To showcase the exquisite gyutan in all its glory, the kitchen team cooks it two ways – grilled and stewed. On the left is a dainty piece of gyutan resting atop kabu (turnip) covered in a yuzu shoyu sauce. Despite looking so tender, it surprisingly yielded a rather noticeable chew. However, this resistance wasn’t unwelcoming, as the turnip instead acted as the melt-in-your-mouth ingredient instead of the beef. What a twist.
The grilled gyutan, on the other hand, was steamed for 12 hours before being put on the grill to achieve a softer-than-firm texture. A spritz of sudachi livens things up with a citrusy twist if that’s your thing. I’d recommend the way I had mine if you find yourself dining at Yoshida and having this – once with and once without.
Beef Cutlet And Uni
Even the gyukatsu here comes plussed up, served with bafun uni. The chef uses kata rosu (chuck) for the dish, expertly deep frying the meat in a thin and slightly crunchy breadcrumb coating to maintain that incredibly juicy and flavourful interior cross section that you see above. Fortunately, deep frying veal doesn’t leave it oily nor rob it of its inherent tastes. And throughout that few minutes, while you take in and enjoy that gyukatsu in all its glory, the uni softens the whole ordeal with a gentle umami sweetness.
My advice on the sudachi remains the same as the dish before.
Truffle And Burrata Gratin
Another Japanese comfort food graces the menu, albeit in yōshoku territory this time – gratin. Bolognese meat sauce and burrata meet potatoes and winter truffles for another hearty dish. The burrata sneakily hid the taste of the minced wagyu bolognese sauce from a visual perspective. Still, the combination of beef, potatoes, cheese and truffles was wearing my palate out at this point in time. This was the case before I took a swig of carbonated water to freshen things up, preparing me for the next course.
Ohitashi is a cold dish comprising spinach, dashi and nameko. Simply, clean, and just what I needed after coming off such a heavy dish and anticipating the next and penultimate course. Delicious and effective.
Ultimate Crispy Sirloin
No self-respecting restaurant dedicated to one of the earth’s tastiest protein sources would miss the chance to show off its prized beef in its simplest culinary form – steak. Yoshida opts to use the sirloin of a female cow because he says it yields softer meat and chooses to serve steak with sweet togarashi, sour plum sauce, fresh wasabi and rock salt.
The steak had a lovely crust, an intense beefy flavour and a buttery centre that only needed a touch of salt to amplify the wagyu’s already delicious flavour. Superb stuff.
At the start of the meal, I was presented with a choice between sukiyaki and curry rice. As your eyes have already undoubtedly revealed, I opted for the latter. I have a sweet spot for Japanese curry rice.
I was told that the curry I so happily lapped up took two days to make and featured a melange of spices and ingredients, such as yoghurt and white chocolate, to achieve its desired consistency and taste. For the Malaysians out there reading this and wondering if it does deliver a nice kick, I think it does.
Truffle Ice Cream
Part one of the dessert was the truffle ice cream. I’m no fan of truffles, but I could still enjoy what the restaurant made. The chef revealed that the ice cream uses fresh truffles, egg, Okinawan brown sugar and cream. The ice cream was actually pretty darn tasty. The truffles are undoubtedly the star here, but there’s finesse in how the other flavours complement them. There’s restraint, resulting in me enjoying it a lot more.
Part two. Soft pineapple flavour. Airy and fluffy at the same time. Flame kissed to mimic the sensation of grilled pineapple. This was a nice way to close out the meal. Or so I thought until the last drink arrived.
Wagyu Kappo Yoshida had one more ace up its sleeve. I sipped on fine matcha from Kyoto, allowed its gentle warmth to tell my tastebuds to rest up, and admired the tatami coaster it was served on. And I left the restaurant one satisfied man.