Nakahara Yakiniku

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17/20 What does it all mean?

 Food Icon 9.5 | Service Icon 3 | Ambience Icon 2.5 | Value Icon 2


Thumbs up

  • Some of the best wagyu beef in the world
  • Kentaro Nakahara’s knowledge and obsession with beef is second to none

Thumbs down

  • While interior feels modern, it loses a bit of warmth that you would expect from a Japanese restaurant
  • Some cuts on the menu tasted average

Recommended dish(es)

  • Wagyu Sirloin
  • Wagyu Oyster Blade
  • Legendary Wagyu Tongue

TL;DR – Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (Yakiniku Nakahara) is not only one of the best yakiniku restaurants in the world, but you’ll also find some of the best wagyu beef in the world here as well.


Kentaro Nakahara

Kentaro Nakahara in action.
Photo credit – Palatism

I love Japan. I love the people, the culture, the food – everything. You may not like Japanese food, but I’m adamant that you simply cannot be a foodie if you don’t love Japan. Japanese food culture means that you will not find anywhere else in the world with greater respect for food, the seasons and their craft. If food perfection exists, it exists somewhere in Japan.

This pursuit of perfection, or Kaizen as it is referred to in Japan, lies at the very heart of the culture of this incredible country. It is a guiding life principle, one that I live by (as the name of this blog suggests). Kaizen, as taught by Taiichi Ohno, is about learning and using experience to strive for perfection through continuously improving process.

This philosophy is ingrained in Japanese culture, from CEOs down to janitors, from chefs to waiters. The most famous example is Jiro Ono, from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but the story of Jiro is just one of many across Japan. One of these stories is Kentaro Nakahara, who takes Kaizen to another level, from dedication to obsession; Nakahara dreams of wagyu.

Nakahara san says that a miniscule 0.2mm difference in thickness or a slight change in knife angle can cause a complete transformation in texture and taste. This is the mark of a true perfectionist. It’s the reason he hand slices all the meat, but only after he “carefully observes the meat’s texture and appearance, touches it, and listens for its voice telling him to cut this way”. Each cut must be better than the last, each meal must be better than the one before.

Even in Japan, not many people at the mere age of 40 have such passion and obsession to be and serve the very best. Combined with the philosophy of Kaizen, Nakahara will only get better with age, much like the meat that he so painstakingly slices.

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉なかはら)
GEMS Ichigaya 9F, 4-3 Rokubancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (map)
+81 3 6261-2987
Reservations essential, book a few weeks in advance.

Nakahara Wagyu Tongue

Legendary Wagyu Tongue – ¥2200/$25 AUD (9/10)

Nakahara’s exclusive Wagyu Tongue has very often been described as “legendary”. Despite being one of the most sceptical people you will ever know, I would have to agree; it was easily the most tender tongue I’ve had in my life. It was so tender and unlike any other tongue I’ve had before, that it didn’t even feel like the same meat. For those who don’t normally eat tongue, this could be a life changing moment. The next best tongue I’ve had was at Chaco Bar in Sydney, but even that pales in comparison.

Nakahara Cooking Wagyu Tongue

I kissed a cow and I liked it.

Tender as it may be though, tongue is still not up there in terms of my favourite cuts; it has nothing on the more specialty cuts such as Sirloin and Oyster Blade. Would happily order it again though (pre-order this with your reservation to ensure they don’t run out).

Nakahara Hire Katsu

Hire Katsu 
Photo credit – Palatism

The Hire Katsu was not on the menu when I dined at Nakahara but Palatism, the famous IGer who recommended Nakahara to me, swears by this dish. In his words, “best wagyu dish of all time”.

Nakahara Hire Katsu

Deep frying one of my favourite foods? Yes please!
Photo credit – Palatism

Normally I don’t recommend food that I haven’t tried myself, but I have complete trust in Palatism’s recommendations. Pre-order is a must.

For those that are new to Nakahara and/or new to Yakiniku experience as a whole, I recommend choosing the Omakase where Nakahara san selects seven slices from the day’s best beef portions. Make a note of the cuts that you like, and then reorder seconds (or thirds…or fourths)

Wagyu Omakase – ¥6,200 – ¥7,500/$70 – $85 AUD per person.

The cuts we had for our Omakase were Nikusome, Sirloin, Outside Skirt, Brisket, Oyster Blade, Knuckle, Hip (Culotte) and Bolar Blade.

I won’t go through a detailed description of every cut of meat we had (I’m not writing a thesis here). Needless to say, the cuts below are the ones we enjoyed the most and got seconds, thirds and fourths.

Nakahara Sirloin

Wagyu Sirloin – ¥3900/$44 AUD (9.75/10)

F*ck me.

I don’t always get rendered speechless and turn into a babbling idiot, but when I do I’ve just had some of the best beef in the world.

Nakahara Cooking Sirloin

The moment when your life changes forever.

Simply put, this is the best piece of beef I’ve ever had. It’s sliced precisely and thinly, resulting in a cut that literally melts in your mouth. I took 3 bites and the meat was already disintegrating down my throat.

Nakahara Oyster Blade

Wagyu Oyster Blade – ¥3900/$44 AUD (9.5/10)

You would think after the epicness of the Sirloin, it’ll be hard to be impressed, let alone rendered speechless once again.

How wrong I was.

This was nothing like Oyster Blade at Rengaya. It was much more marbled, dare I say even more marbled than the Sirloin. So much so that the meat was almost sweet, in the best way possible. But because it was so fatty, I preferred the Sirloin.

nakahara_ichibo

Ichibo (Butt/thigh) – ¥2500/$28 AUD (9.25/10)

Based on our gaping jaws and speechless faces (and our several reorders), our waiter recommended Ichibo. He knew we preferred our meat more marbled and in Korean pear marinade (as opposed to salt and pepper).

We were a bit sceptical eating “arse”, but it was surprisingly tender. It was a better balance of meat and fat than the Sirloin and the Oyster Blade, and as a result was much more palatable. As a comparison, the meat to fat ratio would be similar to the Oyster Blade at Rengaya, but much more tender.

Nakahara Offcuts

Wagyu Offcuts – ¥1600/$18 AUD (8.5/10)

We got a dish of Offcuts at the end of our Omakase course, so I’m not sure if this came with the Omakase or if we got the wrong order.

Nevertheless, as the name suggests, it contains bits and pieces of all the different cuts, most likely being the ones at the end of each piece.

It can be a bit of a lucky draw with a dish like this, but we got a piece of Sirloin and Oyster Blade (among others) in our dish which made it fantastic value, given that it was a third of the price of the regular cuts.

Nakahara Sushi

Sushi and rolled sushi (topped with raw beef) – ¥1800/$20 AUD (7.5/10)

At this point, we realised that eating slices of fat with some meat on it does not constitute a proper meal. So we got some slices of fat with some meat…with rice.

The Sashimi Beef Maki Roll was a disappointment. Both rice and pickle overpowered the beef, which meant you couldn’t taste the quality of the beef, which is really the main reason you’re eating at Nakahara.

Nakahara Beef Nigiri

Sushi for life.

Sashimi Beef Nigiri was no Hashiguchi, but it was good enough for a reorder. The slight acidity of the rice cut through the fattiness of the rib eye sashimi and resulted in a balanced mouthful.

Nakahara Tekka Don

Tekka don (a bowl of rice topped with slices of raw beef) – ¥1100/$12 AUD (8/10)

Overall, the Tekka Don was not bad, and was a great way to break up the meal. However, there was nothing particularly special about this dish, and if you plan on eating this with your freshly barbequed meats, you’ll literally be eating meat on meat on meat. Unless there’s a burning desire to try this, I would save stomach space for the other cuts.

Nakahara Wagyu Tongue

The first shot of a meal that was legen – wait for it – dary.

Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉なかはら)
GEMS Ichigaya 9F, 4-3 Rokubancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (map)
+81 3 6261-2987
Reservations essential, book a few weeks in advance.

So fellow foodies, what’s your favourite Yakiniku joint in Tokyo?

9 thoughts on “Nakahara Yakiniku

  1. Thanks so much for your review–I didn’t find your site until the week before we went to Tokyo. I was able to get a reservation at Nakahara and it was the best place we ate at on our trip:) I am excited about using your site to find the right restaurants when I come back to Tokyo–or go anywhere else. I loved reading all of your reviews

    Liked by 1 person

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