The Tottori Wagyu Fair is taking place at six restaurants in the Hotel New Otani Tokyo until July 15. The event has been hosted by the hotel every year since 2018, and this year is offering a new way of enjoying the premium wagyu together with wine from Tottori Prefecture.

In a recent interview that took place at Seisen-tei, a teppanyaki grill restaurant located in the Japanese Garden of the hotel, Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai and Shinsuke Nakajima, the executive managing director and executive chef of New Otani Co. Ltd., talked about the high-quality wagyu and its pairing with wine produced by Hojyo Winery in Tottori.

In Tottori, with centuries of tradition as one of the major horse and cattle markets in Japan, there are descendants of the Ketaka sire that won first prize at the first wagyu contest in the 1960s. “Descendants of the Ketaka are characterized by its high level of oleic acid in loin, the main constituent of olive oil. Unlike lard, fat that contains a lot of oleic acid is not cloying. It is light and melts easily in your mouth,” Hirai said. This beautiful flavor and texture has been inherited by many of the descendant of the Ketaka in Tottori.

Hirai said local farms have never stopped trying to produce better high-quality wagyu despite many hardships in recent years such as the rising cost of feed and utilities. “Against such a backdrop, we are extremely encouraged by the Hotel New Otani Tokyo’s commitment in promoting Tottori wagyu and serving it with refined techniques,” he said.

He was also delighted to see the successful pairing of Tottori wagyu and the local wine. “This wine is also the result of continuous effort by the producer, who has overcome a massive loss of wine equal to 50,000 bottles due to an earthquake that occurred in central Tottori Prefecture in 2016. The third-generation manager of the winery and his Ukrainian wife have been pouring their hearts and minds into making good wines. We are proud and grateful that Hojyo wine was chosen as part of the fair,” Hirai said.

Nakajima said Executive Chef Sommelier Nobuhide Tani recommended the wine in the process of creating the menus for this year’s fair. “The moment I tasted it, I was sure that it matches perfectly with Tottori wagyu. In the culinary world, we often combine various ingredients produced in the same region for a harmonious effect. Similarly, I think that the wine and beef made in the same area using the same, clean water from the rich natural environment should be an ideal match,” Nakajima said.

Tottori wagyu
Tottori wagyu | YUICO TAIYA

The combination of the delicate and sophisticated wine and flavorful and tender Tottori wagyu can be enjoyed at Sekishin-tei, a teppanyaki restaurant next to Seisen-tei with a view of a carp-filled pond and the Japanese Garden. The wine can be ordered by the bottle or the glass, and is best enjoyed with meals that feature sirloin and beef filet along with rice and other Japanese-style side dishes.

“Tasting and comparing different parts of the meat such as sirloin and filet is something we often do as chefs to evaluate the quality of the meat in deciding what and how to serve our guests. Offering our guests a chance to eat the meat the same way chefs do in the kitchen is proof of our confidence in Tottori wagyu,” Nakajima said.

This year’s Tottori Wagyu Fair menus have both new items and standards that have proved popular in the previous fairs. One of the perennials is round steak topped with sliced lemon and lemon sauce, served at the Satsuki coffee shop. “The fat high in oleic acid goes well with the freshness of lemon,” Nakajima said.

One of the new offerings is a smashed hamburger with sauteed mushrooms and onions, red wine sauce and cheddar cheese. “We thought that the easiest way to present the unique characteristic of the beef would be to make something that many people are accustomed to eating,” Nakajima said.

Hirai commented that Tottori is also blessed with an abundant variety of livestock and crops nurtured by the rich nature and soil. “For example, Tottori is a major production area for scallions, watermelons, nashi pears and Hakushu Bijin, a kind of leek that becomes melty and sweet when stewed — another ingredient that goes perfectly with Tottori wagyu,” he said. The prefecture also has many must-see sights such as the vast Tottori Sand Dunes; Mount Daisen, the highest peak in the Chugoku region; and the vast Sea of Japan. “Through the encounter with Tottori’s delicacies at the Hotel New Otani Tokyo, we hope that many people will be inspired to visit our prefecture to feel the environment and tradition that have nurtured the rich food culture,” Hirai said.

Tani explained that the reason why this wine is not labeled as vintage is because it is a blend of multiple great vintages from the past years. “As a result, the concentration and maturation unique to a great vintage is achieved to make this wine exceptionally well-balanced,” he said.