Kobe, its whats for dinner!

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 8-  Kobe, its what's for dinner!
  Back around the corner to shower again.  We then had to fight with the cleaning guy to leave our room alone (honestly if he saw the inside, he wouldn't want to go anywhere near it anyway).  It took us over thirty minutes to get to the Osaka station (it normally takes us 10-15).  The train to Kobe took forever too.  We thought we might have hit Japanese rush-hour (10:00am), but we received our answers at the station.  There were three major accidents on the JR lines causing major delays.  (We would later find out that the accidents were due to bad weather in Tokyo.  A typhoon).  A quick trip to the top of Kobe City Hall allowed us to view the entire port, and surrounding mountains.  It was probably the prettiest city we have been to thus far.  Our new mission- Kobe beef.  A few restaurants were recommended to us, but at 4,700yen (over $40) a person, we would have to do without.  Instead, we found ourselves an adorable Teppanyaki place. Ordering at this place was the most difficult part of our vacation. 
Teppanyaki cuisines incorporate beef, chicken, seafood, veggies, noodles, eggs and who knows what else.  It's an interactive cuisine, kind of like Bennihana's except often the diner gets involved in finishing the preparation at his/her table.  We had a particularly hard time in Kobe as no English menu was available and the two waitresses were light on patience and English.  We pointed, we used the phrase book and still we had problems communicating.  Finally we settled on something that looked like an omelet and a small steak.  The omelet was called an okonomiyaki which we learned was a specialty in the region.  Ours consisted of bacon, fried noodles, sprouts, onion, egg, okonomiyaki sauce which is similar to teriyaki.  We noticed a popular extra topping was mayonnaise (which the Japanese seem to be completely enamored with).  (Give them 10 yrs and everyone will look like a sumo wrestler).  The steak, though miniscule, was grade A.  The okonomiyaki was pretty good though I didn't get what all the hubbub was about.    
  We had heard about this cute part of town called Kitano that was famous for its western-style houses.  As we began to make our way up, my stomach began to rumble, and if not for the saving graces of Family Mart, I may have just died from sheer panic.  A few minutes later (in part to an Imodium), I was feeling all better.  Kitano Meister Garden was on our way, so we made a quick stop.  There are a slew of little gourmet shops, with tons of free samples (a definite must for the budget traveler).  The fudge chef allowed us a bite of his earth-shattering (this just may have been the cause of that 6.8 measured earthquake) fudge.  When he saw that we were Americans, he ran over to grab a blown up photo of him holding chocolate.  Apparently the photo was taken in America.
    We visited Weathercock, one of the western-style houses, but ended up watching a Japanese clown instead.  He had a few basic tricks, but he pulled them off well.  We finished our walk at the Shin-Kobe gondolas.  A six person bucket smoothly pulls you 300 meters up the mountain.  The ride is beautiful with a full view of the harbor straight ahead, and waterfalls along the side of the mountain.  Three quarters of the way up, the sky opened up and our little gondola was being pelted with huge drops that put an end to our view.  For anybody visiting Kobe, the bucket ride is a must.  Even in a torrential down-pour, the top of the mountain was spectacular.  It hosted beautifully manicured gardens, and an unbeatable view. 
  Harborland was our next destination (seeing as the aquarium would close in only an hour).  We were told of Harborland being very romantic and on the water.  Perhaps if the weather was better we would have felt some of romance.  I began to notice that all of the children were starring at me.  Some would wave, and others just became fixated.  I suppose they aren't as accustomed to seeing tourist as some of the other places we have visited.
  At the information center at Kobe station, we were told that the Asakura Hotel offers a Kobe burger in one of their restaurants, so we decided to give it a shot.  The walk from Harborland led us past the Marine Museum where a huge outdoor concert was being held.  And outside of the concert was an outdoor food festival.  We made a quick stop at one of the booths serving meat to inquire whether they offered any Kobe.  The gentleman not only laughed at us but called all of his friends over to hear our request.  We made our way to the hotel, and after becoming completely lost in the lower levels of the hotel (actually entering a broom closet at one point) we found the Cammilla Café.  Unfortunately, they only serve the burger at lunch, and it cost 3,500 yen. 
  We retreated back to the food fest (I was completely broken hearted that I would not be able to sample Kobe in Kobe), but the smells coming the tables assured me that amazing food awaited us nonetheless.  The first stand had a huge grill with beautiful meat squares on a stick.  As we looked closer, we realized that the "meat" on the stick was not just steak, it was Kobe!!  500 yen for five pieces of paradise!  We happily handed over the large gold coin in exchange for the greatest piece of steak I have ever tasted. 
Imagine your most memorable steak experience.  Mine was perhaps a porterhouse at Peter Luger's for Scott's birthday some years ago.  The best cut grilled to a perfect med rare with an unparalleled (buttered) char (with just a dabble of the Luger sauce).  Now, imagine you're walking down a street fair.  In this case an Asian one offering Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai standards.   Everything looks great but in the back of your head you really wanted a chance to sample that Kobe.  Luckily, as Michelle described, we stumbled on this stand that previously eluded us.  Simply grilled skewers of fatty, marbled, half inch cubes seasoned with just a shake of salt and pepper.  Eureka!  Now I loved that Luger steak but I don't think I ever experienced how good beef could taste in this most simplest of preparations.  Though the terminology "melt in your mouth" is cliché there is no other way for me to explain how the euphoria of sinking into these little cubes.  Grilled Kobe skewers, we will never forget you.   
  We decided to grab some desserts from the nearby 100yen store, and watch a DVD in our room that night.  I bought an ice cream (the best ice cream in the world), a waffle crust with vanilla ice cream and pieces of dark chocolate.  Phil bought a flan.  Back at the room a small fight ensued.  It started over one of us taking too large of a bite, and the other not really being in the mood for flan.  We started to watch the movie Irreversible, but between the hard-core gay sex scenes, and a man having his face smashed in with a fire extinguisher, we called it a night early. 
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