30 July 2016

Restaurant Review: Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, Osaka

Since coming to Japan, beef is something that I eat quite rarely. It's pretty expensive to buy in the supermarket, and when eating out you're less likely to come across it on menus than you are pork and chicken. This is why when I choose a special meal out, I'm often tempted to opt for steak rather than something more traditionally Japanese like sushi. Eating steak definitely feels like an occasion here, whereas something like sushi is so ubiquitous that it can be found everywhere from your local convenience store right up to your michelin-starred restaurant. So when it came to having a meal on my last night in Osaka, I chose to eat at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M

The restaurant name is quite a mouthful, so let me break it down for you. Matsusakagyu is a type of beef (gyu meaning beef in Japanese eg. wagyu which means Japanese cow/beef). These black-haired cows come from the Mie region of Japan. The lucky cows are fed beer when their appetite fails and are treated to regular massages. This results in a meat that is a grade higher than even Kobe beef (meaning the marbled beef has a higher fat to meat ratio). Yaki Niku is basically the Japanese term for barbecue - so it is a restaurant where you cook the meat yourself at a grill on your table.

I ate at the restaurant's Dotonbori branch, which was not only a convenient location but also has a sake bar underneath, the restaurant's Sake Bar M300, which seemed perfect for post-dinner drinks.

The restaurant itself is found on the second floor of a building directly by Dotonburi canal. The seating is divided into Japanese-style dining booths, so that each group is afforded some privacy from the next. The restaurant also had incredible ventilation, which seems an odd thing to praise a restaurant for, but I have been to so many yaki niku/yakitori/genghis khan restaurants that are so poorly ventilated that you come out reeking of smoked meat. Then you have to throw all your clothes in the wash as soon as you get home and have an exceedingly long and soapy shower to rid yourself of the scent. Luckily this didn't happen at Matsusakagyu, so I didn't offend the entire carriage on the train home with the scent of barbecue beef - definitely a bonus!

We opted for the Premium Set Menu which promised a selection of appetisers as well as of course a selection of beef, followed by dessert. We also went for a couple of local beers courtesy of Minoh Beer, because, you know, it would be rude not to.

Minoh Beer: Pale Ale & Pilsner

The appetiser selection interestingly enough didn't include beef. It was relatively tasty but didn't exactly set my taste buds on fire, just got my appetite going for the meal: which I suppose is the point of an appetiser.

Okra, sweet potato, omelette, chicken

The next prelude to the main event was the short rib beef with garlic sauce. This one definitely set me salivating!

The short rib with sauce, plus some fat to oil up the grill


Next in line was beef sushi... which I was really hoping I would like, but it just didn't do it for me. In fact I think it would have been fine without the wasabi on top but that kind of dominated everything. As you can see from the photos, it's quite a large dollop of wasabi for each piece, given how strong the flavour of it is. It should have worked in theory because it is essentially the classic beef and horseradish combination, but sadly it didn't live up to expectations.

Beef sushi

Luckily when the main course of various cuts of beef arrived and we started cooking and tasting each piece, it became clear that we'd made the right choice to eat here. The beef had a really great depth of flavour, and was very melt in the mouth. I think the fact that the restaurant only buys whole cows is a massive benefit, as not only can they guarantee the provenance of the beef, but it also means that they can offer a more interesting selection of cuts. This means that you get a real sense of the spectrum of flavours from different parts of the cow, from the leaner, gamier parts, through to the richer, fattier pieces.

Flap meat and Haneshita (loin/back)

Today's special (sirloin) and Kyukyoku (prime rib)

Dessert was a delicious yuzu ice cream. As delicous as it was, I always feel that getting an ice cream as your dessert in a set menu is a bit of a cop out from the kitchen -  I mean, I have ice cream in my freezer at home. I would prefer to get something a little bit more interesting: perhaps a slice of matcha roll cake or something along those lines.

The main star of this restaurant, the beef, is truly excellent, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try some wagyu in Osaka. I would recommend skipping the set menu and simply ordering whatever beef and sides you want a la carte. The restaurant is really reasonably priced as well (in comparison to a lot of restaurants I've looked at that serve Kobe beef), so it's a good way to try some great quality Japanese beef without completely breaking the bank. I also thought that the beef tasted much better than the Kobe beef I'd tried. Admittedly the only Kobe beef I've tried was at a market stall in Kobe during Golden Week and wasn't what I'd call expertly prepared... but then again we cooked the Matsusukagyu ourselves at the table and we're not chefs, so I think the fact that the result was more delicious is certainly a result of the quality of beef. It just had a much more interesting flavour, and the cuts with the rich, melt-in the mouth fattiness were just amazing!

The sake bar downstairs is also not to be missed - you can try a range of different types of sake from around Japan for just 300JPY a shot! The menu also helpfully advises you as to how sweet/dry each sake is, and the knowledgeable staff are also on hand to explain the sake to you. All very helpful if like me you like sake very much but don't know the first thing about choosing one.

All in all I was happy with my choice of Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M restaurant to celebrate my final night in the city of Osaka. I doubt I'll have the chance to eat beef that delicious again for quite some time!

Have you tried wagyu beef?

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