Booths are good social distancing, right? Well that’s the way I’ve always used them. Throw in an online ordering system, and you barely have to speak to anyone if you decide to visit Kobe Wagyu BBQ Restaurant... while you still can.
You’ll find this four-year-old, Chinese-owned, Japanese BBQ joint by climbing up a curved copper arc of stairs. Reaching the summit, the first thing you are confronted with are the well-stocked wagyu and sake fridges, getting things off to a very good beginning!
Evenings are all about their BBQ Buffet Menu ($84/person) that gives you access to all the wagyu you care to eat – and not in a grubby-everyone-breathing-all-over-it buffet kind of way.
Here you order using a touch screen (just use your hand sanitiser, people) and get small portions of whatever takes your fancy delivered to your table by staff well versed in proper hygiene.
Exactly how you whack it on your fresh, clean grill plate and how much char you add to it, is entirely up to you.
Though as a general rule of thumb, use your tongs to stick your meat in the middle and arrange your vegetables around the outside.
When you see blood bubble to the surface, it’s time to flip your meat.
Wagyu is part of the name of this restaurant for a reason – it’s what they do best – delivering a premium, nicely marbled product in whatever cut you like.
I ate across the range of beef from my usual favourites, chunky little rib fingers, to thicker slabs of rib eye cap, to thin bits of flap meat.
There are cuts you’ll know well, like oyster blade and short rib, and cuts you might not, like the tender, highly marbled brisket navel end (karubi) that only takes a short time on the grill.
We mowed our way through thin rounds of beef tongue, glistening in oil, so they didn’t stick to the grill, to fat-flecked tri-tip – no part of the available cow was spared.
Since we dined on a Thursday, we got a free Asahi Beer to wash it down (every night has a different promotion, you can check their website for further details).
For an extra tenner, you can get an all-you-can-drink buffet of non-alcoholic options running from cans of unsweetened green tea, to lemon lime and bitters, to fresh watermelon juice.
If you want to splash out on some sake, Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo ($48/300ml) is a clean, round texture and a soft finish. And there are plenty of Japanese favourites to eat it with, from pots of chawanmushi to sushi rolls and sashimi.
We ate our way through salmon, kingfish, scallop, surf clam, delicate snapper and a pretty rose of pink tuna before stumbling on something new.
Shellfish sashimi or tsubugai, which is a whelk or sea snail - and, before you turn up your nose, it’s earthy and tasty with lovely chew. Slippery tako wasabi sends slivers of wasabi-spiked raw octopus down your throat – it’s popular in Japanese izakayas for a reason, it’s excellent with sake!
You’ll also find some of the Korean barbeque standards from kimchi to yukke (a Korean raw minced beef dish that resembles tartare), along with lettuce leaves if you prefer to eat your meat as ssäm (wrapped up in lettuce).
We gave them a whirl against some of the less exciting meats – like frozen-cut slices of pork neck that ate a bit thin and dry.
The thicker-cut, skin-on duck pieces were fattier, and thus coped with the cooking method better; but really this joint is all about the beef.
In terms of vegetables, individual corn’n’butter pots are always fun. Mushrooms (king brown, button, or shiitake) go very well on the grill, particularly when dragged through a sesame oil and salt pot that you can place an order for.
With dessert also part of the all-inclusive affair, you can go hard on personal desserts like matcha tiramisu. Kobe Wagyu’s own invention – grilled rice cakes served with sweetened condensed milk – are my favourite, as they also make use of their on-table barbeques.
Ask for a clean grill plate and stick the orderly rectangular blocks right in the centre.
Watch closely as they puff up into distorted bulbous shapes complete with grill marks. These grilled mochi-marshmallows are so good, I ordered a second plate just to watch them writhe around on the grill!
Kobe Wagyu BBQ Restaurant
Level 1, 605-609 George Street
Ph: (02) 9283 2268