Konoe Beef, One of Japan's Three Greatest Wagyu. Local Writer's Top Three Picks!

Konoe Beef, One of Japan's Three Greatest Wagyu. Local Writer's Top Three Picks!

It's said that there are over 300 brands of Japanese beef. Among them are three brands that stand above the rest: Mie Prefecture's Matsusaka beef, Hyogo Prefecture's Kobe beef, and Shiga Prefecture's Konoe beef. The best wagyu beef usually has a good balance of shimofuri fat marbling and a sweetness to go with the umami. In this article, we'll be going over the three best places in Shiga to dine on Konoe beef.

What is Konoe beef, anyway?

Konoe beef is the oldest brand of cow in Japan, having about 400 years of history. Though the shogunate banned the consumption of beef in the Edo era, the Hikone Domain was allowed to raise cattle to provide the shogun with said beef. The beef is fine, with sweet fat, and it melts in your mouth. It also costs less than the other known brands of wagyu, making it all the more appealing. If you want wagyu beef that won't break the bank, head for Shiga.

Fresh, nigiri-style beef: Sennaritei Kyara

This restaurant is run by Sennaritei, a butcher that deals exclusively in Konoe beef. More than anything, the restaurant focuses on freshness. Having contracts with farmers and cow ranches of their own, the restaurant stocks beef by the whole cow. The cows they bring in are at their prime, as well: Females over 30 months of age who have not yet given birth. Their personal farms don't attempt to fatten their cows with a lot of food quickly, instead opting to take their time raising them.

Konoe beef toro-nigiri, 2 for 980 yen (tax included)

Konoe beef toro-nigiri, 2 for 980 yen (tax included)

Their most notable item is their sushi, which allows you to directly taste Konoe beef's splendor. Though beef is usually consumed cooked, this beef can be eaten raw if when fresh. One can only cut a single kilogram of "toro" fatty meat from a 600 kg cow, and this is the restaurant’s most popular cut. Those who eat it say that it “vanishes in the mouth,” and that they’ve “never tasted anything like it.” Even so, it's available at an entirely reasonable price.

The restaurant has a Japanese-style interior, allowing guests to relax as they eat. It's located on the Yume Kyo-bashi Castle Road near Hikone Castle, making it a great spot to visit if you've come to see the castle.

Sennaritei Kyara
2 Chome-1-7 Honmachi, Hikone-shi, Shiga-ken (Yume Kyo-bashi Castle Road)
0749-21-2789
Hours: 11:30AM to 3PM (last order 2:30PM), 5PM to 10PM (last order 8:30PM)
Closed: Tuesdays

Enjoy beef aged at low temperatures: Restaurant Matsukiya

Matsukiya, an establishment that stocks carefully appraised Konoe cows from contracted farms, is a butcher that's been in the Konoe beef business since 1870. They deal only in particularly high-class Konoe beef and offer them to the public at Restaurant Matsukiya.

Beef Hotpot (1,998-4,968 yen, tax included. Price differs by cut)

Beef Hotpot (1,998-4,968 yen, tax included. Price differs by cut)

All of Matsukichiya's beef is aged at low temperatures, bringing its umami out to maximum levels. This is a storied method of using the cold to improve foods that has been passed down in Japan. The industrial refrigerators preserve their freshness while aging them hygienically. If you want to taste this aged meat at a reasonable cost, you'll want to go with the Gyunabe-zen, the beef hotpot. A simple boiled dish of beef and vegetables, you can taste all of the flavor the meat has to offer.

It comes with rice or udon, miso soup, and fruit. The price changes based on the cut: Thighs, intestines, loins, or combinations of the three.

Depending on what you order, you can enjoy your meal in the common room, the steak counter, or a private room. The private room costs an extra 10%, but the relaxed atmosphere and Japanese design are worth experiencing. If you want to leave wonderful memories of your journey, try picking a room to your liking.

Restaurant Matsukiya
14-17 Karahashicho, Otsu-shi, Shiga-ken 520-0851
077-534-2901
Hours: 11:30AM to 2PM (LI), 5PM to 8PM (LI)
Closed: Irregularly

Konoe beef souvenirs also available! Marutake Oumi Nishikawa

This is a Konoe beef specialist in Konoe Hachiman. Its Japanese-styled exterior lets it fit right in amongst Hachiman-bori storefronts. Surprisingly, the Konoe beef used here comes from its own farm. All of the cows are purebred, coming from the carefully guided Tajima line of juicy cattle.

Konoe beef Sukiyaki Set (3,780 yen, tax included)

Konoe beef Sukiyaki Set (3,780 yen, tax included)

The restaurant's most popular dish is the sukiyaki set. With beef boiled in a sweet soy sauce stock, you eat the meat by dipping it in raw egg. The stock is made in-house, with minimal sweetness to preserve the beef's flavor.

The restaurant's most popular dish is the sukiyaki set. With beef boiled in a sweet soy sauce stock, you eat the meat by dipping it in raw egg. The stock is made in-house, with minimal sweetness to preserve the beef's flavor.

Konoe beef croquette (70 yen, tax included)

Konoe beef croquette (70 yen, tax included)

The restaurant also has an attached butchery on the first floor, where guests can buy side dishes to take home. There are Konoe beef croquettes, sukiyaki croquettes made with sweet soy sauce, and fried mincemeat cutlets. There's also Konoe beef pickled in miso, safe at room temperature and perfect for souvenirs.

Marutake Oumi Nishikawa
17 Suwaichonaka, Omihachiman-shi, Shiga-ken
0748-32-2336
Hours: 11AM to 3:30PM, 5PM to 8PM Sat/Sun/Holidays 11AM to 8PM (last order 7PM)
Butchery operates 9:30AM to 7PM
Closed: Tuesdays

Text by:WEST PLAN