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Sakana no Nakasei: One of three great Tokyo restaurants for aged beef

by Robbie Swinnerton

Tokyo’s taste for high-end meat is maturing fast. For the cognoscenti, breed, provenance and fat content have long been critical. Now add one more key factor: aging. That’s the focus at several new venues.

At Ruby Jack’s, the slick, chic steakhouse that opened in Ark Hills in Akasaka in April, premium beef is the name of the game — just as you’d guess from the illuminated showcase with its haunches and slabs, which forms the centerpiece of the gleaming, glass-encased dining room.

Both sirloin and ribeye steaks are A3 wagyū — local beef of certified origin; medium marbling of the fat — that is dry-aged 45 days. Succulent and tender, rich but not too fatty, this is premium beef at prices to match (¥11,000 per 300 grams of sirloin). For those who prefer their beef imported, there is USDA prime (ribeye or New York cut) or Australian Black Angus (fillet or T-bone) at rather less eye-watering sticker prices.

Ruby Jack’s springs from the same stable as Two Rooms and R2 Supper Club, with Matthew Crabbe overseeing the kitchen and Eddie Bafoe ensuring the same level of front-of-house expertise. Quality is high, English is the lingua franca and you’d hardly know you’re in Japan.

Two floors down, in the basement of the same tower, Kakunoshin F offers a humbler local take on these upmarket pleasures. Half izakaya tavern, half wine bar, it’s the sort of easygoing place where you order dishes a couple at a time (there are also set menus from ¥3,000), sink a bottle of affordable plonk and loosen your necktie along with your belt.

But it takes its beef seriously. The Iwate wagyū is aged 60 days and counting, with a choice of either lean akami meat or densely white-marbled shimofuri. It doesn’t feel glamorous enough for a big splurge, but should you feel impelled, the chateaubriand steak is ¥6,000 per 100 grams, and the sirloin half that much.

However, the best of the recent bunch of venues aimed at Tokyo’s “aged beefeaters” lies across town. Nakasei, a renowned butcher and steak restaurant in Myogadani, has opened a takeout deli with a tiny eat-in counter in the basement of Coredo Muromachi 2, in Nihonbashi.

Called Sakana no Nakasei, the restaurant specializes in Tajima wagyū aged two months at minus-5 degrees. As at the highly popular main restaurant, the limited-edition steak of the day is the big draw and sells out fast, followed by the made- and seasoned-to-order ground beef hamburg steak.

The biggest revelation, though, is the charcuterie. The delicate slices of aromatic wagyū “ham” — lean akami or creamy-white shirofumi as rich as the finest Italian lardo — pair wonderfully with sake or wine, as does the peppery pastrami. It’s so good you’ll probably order some to take home with you.

Sakana no Nakasei: B1F Coredo Muromachi 2, 12-3-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
03-3505-0298; mi-mo.jp/pc/lng/eng/muromachi2.html
Daily 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. (LO), 5-8:30 p.m. (LO)
Nearest station Mitsukoshimae
No smoking
Major cards OK
No English menu; little English spoken.
Ruby Jack’s: Ark Hills South Tower 2F, 1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
03-5544-8222
www.rubyjacks.jp
Kakunoshin F: B1 Ark Hills South Tower, 1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
03-3505-0298
www.kakunosh.in.

Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.