How I travelled to the “best steakhouse in the world”

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The steak is grilled over binchotan grill

No matter how good your hotel or credit card concierge is, or how fluent you speak Japanese, you can’t get into Kawamura ,even by reserving it very much in advance. I realized this two years ago, when I naively asked my hotel concierge in Tokyo to get me a place at this introduction only steakhouse in Ginza. She booked me at Bifteck no Kawamura (ビフテキのカワムラ) instead, which be aware, has nothing to do with Kawamura ( かわむら). I still got my Kobe steak that day, but suddenly I was very curious to know how the steak at かわむら was.

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Kawamura-san

Japan is on a totally different dimension from the rest of the world when ingredients are concerned. The 10 years I’ve been regularly travelling to Tokyo are marked with exceptional food memories. Let’s forget about sushi in Tokyo, which, of course, has nothing to do with sushi in Paris or London (even the very high end one). The best cup of cappuccino I’ve had in my life was at a small café in Kyoto; the most divine flourless chocolate cake I am still going to blog about ( see my Instagram for a sneak preview) was in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The list could go on and on.

Beef from Yamagata, used for the steak
Beef from Yamagata, used for the steak

And, then, we have Wagyu or the “Japanese beef”. Beef consumption in Japan is a relatively new phenomenon. For thousands of years before the Meiji Restoration in 1868, it was a taboo to eat beef- cattles were used as work animals for rice cultivation.It’s only after the World War II that beef consumption pattern has begun to change. Nowadays Wagyu, depending on its grade (A5 being the fattiest) is considered a luxury product around the world. Maybe the beef from Kobe is the most known and famous,but is by far not the only Wagyu you will find in Japan. For example, Kuroge Washu or “Japanese Black” from Matsusaka is considered better than from Kobe. Different beef restaurants in Tokyo will use the beef that they consider the best.

50 year old abalone
50 year old abalone

Going back to Kawamura steakhouse, it  is more of a private club than a restaurant. When few months ago we were kindly proposed by someone regular to have a dinner there, I didn’t hesitate to confirm right away, especially that the reservation coincided with the sakura blooming period. Like most of the exclusive restaurants in Tokyo, Kawamura is a tiny counter restaurant and as far as I remember, besides of the chef-owner Kawamura-san, there were only two or three sous chefs.

The abalone was served with cream and caviar from Kazakhstan. This was an amazing dish.
The abalone was served with cream and caviar from Kazakhstan. This was an amazing dish.

Kawamura, Shima and Ginza Hirayama (another “uber” steakhouse I visited during this trip), all have one connection – Yutaka steakhouse in Gion, Kyoto, where Shima-san and Kawamura-san started their careers,while Hirayama -san is the apprentice of Kawamura-san. Besides of the steaks, Kawamura-san is known for yoshoku (Western influenced cooking) and, to be honest, everything, starting from abalone with caviar, finishing with incredible tartare, was mind blowing except for… the steak. Maybe it was an unlucky day or maybe it’s a question of taste, but I found the steak way too fatty and even its texture was kind of “watery”. I like Wagyu a lot, but not when fat is dripping after it’s served on the plate.I do plan on returning to Kawamura next fall for it’s truly phenomenal cooking, but when a perfect steak is concerned, the one at Shima might be more for my taste. 

Incredible Waguy tartare with diced tomatoes
Incredible Waguy tartare with diced tomatoes
Beef consommé made of beef only. So pure in flavors and tasty.
Beef consommé made of beef only. So pure in flavors and tasty.
Beef tonkatsu
Beef tonkatsu
The steak
The steak
Beef from Ibaraki, used for gyudon
Beef from Ibaraki, used for gyudon
Perfect crème caramel
Perfect crème caramel
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