Great Hida Beef Right Here in Nagoya!
The world over, Kobe Beef is known as the best! Cows that live in luxury apartments, are fed fine foods and craft-beers, massaged by exotic beauties and treated like royalty until abattoir day. Amazingly, there is a fat marbled beef that rivals Kobe’s finest but doesn’t so much as get a look in worldwide, namely the tasty Hida Beef.
Like Kobe Beef, Hida Beef is prime meat and has a price tag to prove it. Finding a place that sells Hida Beef may not be too tricky in Nagoya, but nowhere is it treated with more respect and care than at Tonbo, a beautiful restaurant nestled behind Takaoka Station.
Before you read on, if you are on a budget and can’t really afford anything more than extra rice at Yoshinoya, then this place really isn’t for you. But if you want to treat yourself (and hopefully somebody else) to an amazing and memorable meal, then this place is perfect, as the top-end of the menu runs in at just under ¥15,000 per person, per set.
There are more affordable options, but if that number just gave you a coronary, then please seek medical attention and wait to hear about the less pricey sets.
But before we get to the rest of the menu, how could anyone charge so much for a slab of cow? Good question and the answer is, that when it comes to Hida Beef, the prices at Tonbo are comparatively very reasonable. The management are keen to point out that they get their meat directly from the farms. This not only makes it cheaper, but also ensures much greater quality!
I was told that many other places that stock Hida Beef, the meat has gone through two or three handlers before finding its way to your plate, affecting it’s freshness. However, the beef at Tonbo is second to none.
And it isn’t just the raw ingredients they take seriously: You can cook your meat over charcoal,a hot stone plate, shabu-shabu style, fried on a leaf with miso and even everyone’s favourite, gyudon! Tonbo’s bowl of meat and rice has gained a fair amount of attention and has been featured on both Chukyo TV and CBC.
Tonbo’s take on gyudon is prepared in three stages: the first being standard meat on top of rice. After eating a little, nori, wasabi and other fine ingredients are added and mixed in. After giving that a taste, the last stage sees a deliciously delicate broth poured over the remaining food, giving you three distinct flavors in one meal.
The menu can seem a little daunting, with not only the weight of the beef and the grade you choose changing the price, but also how you choose to cook it (the stone plate for example is cheaper than the charcoal). But the staff are very friendly and with ample supplies of patience and a little English, they will be happy (thrilled in fact) to tell you a little more about what you are ordering.
But what about those better value options I mentioned earlier? Well there are two ways to go about it; firstly, get lunch. Lunch sets again vary in price, but are, for the most part, less than ¥3000 per person. At lunch you can fry the fantastic beef on a huge leaf, along with fresh vegetables and miso; or you can replace the meat with shrimp and squid for any fish lovers (neither one of those are fish I know, but no-one calls themselves crustacean and cephalopod fanatics).
If you can’t find the time to get there for lunch, another cunning plan is to hold an enkai, which can be as small as 4 people, or as large as 20. If you plan a party, you will be offered a unique menu, which is as diverse as the normal menu, but has the option of a very reasonable ¥4000 set, which still gives you prime Hida beef and the choice of how to cook it. So even if it is a double date and not an enkai, there will be no problem in ordering that set, so long as you book ahead.
One more thing that I couldn’t not mention, being an alcoholic, is the nomihodai sets they have available. There are two options, the first and cheaper one being ¥1500 for 90 minutes and another with premium drinks for ¥2000.
The standard set has real BEER, so if you are a lager-lout, this is probably for you. If you like craft sake, shochu and whisky, paying the extra ¥500 is well worth it. Again, the staff are very keen to talk about the drinks they have on offer so don’t be shy in asking what shochu goes best with your meal, or where the sake you are drinking was brewed.
The passion with which the workers at Tonbo answer your questions shows their pride and in turn the quality of the food on offer. Although the food is fantastic, the overall experience at Tonbo is that every once in while, a meal should be savored and enjoyed, and not just stuffed down your throat before a timer pings on your all-you-can-eat course dinner. If you love food and want to learn more about the finer art of Japanese food, Tonbo is a friendly and welcoming place to dip your toes into the vast expanse of Japanese cuisine.
Open: 11:30-22:00 Daily, call for reservations.
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