When we talk about meat in reference to the Japanese gastronomic tradition we mean many things. As is known, there are various preparations for which Japanese cuisine is known throughout the world. And yet there is a cooking that is as simple as it is arduous to find due to the exquisiteness of its raw material: obviously it is wagyu meat cooked on the hot plate or on the embers. In Italy it is possible to find it in its most prestigious form in via San Fermo 1 at Yazawa.
The Yazawa Meat company, long before it opened its doors in Milan, started its restaurant business in Singapore. Later, it opened in Tokyo (restaurant specializing in sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, awarded with a Michelin star), Kyoto, Milan (unique both in Italy and in Europe) and Bervely Hills. There is also a takeaway shop in Tokyo Station, famous for the take-away burger. In Tokyo, moreover, there is the main laboratory for the preparation and vacuum packing of the quarters, which are subsequently sent to Italy and USA. Yazawa is a very popular restaurant and the reason why it is obvious: high quality meat, a refined atmosphere, Japanese chef (Tsuyoshi Noikura) Japanese and extremely qualified staff. And the meat, undisputed queen, deserves careful study. There is often confusion when discussing Kobe and wagyu meat. Kobe, not only is the city famous for the aforementioned meat, but it is also a particular and protected quality of meat; wagyu instead is the name of the beef breed.
It is good to specify this aspect, because at Yazawa there is no wagyu whatever, but the prestigious Wagyu kurage (literally “Japanese beef with black coat”): it is a bovine whose weight fluctuates between 500 and 600 kg, black and with small horns, bred for 36/42 months (in the West it is usually not continued beyond 18 months) listening to classical music in very small farms where it is massaged continuously: here the space is small, so there is the need to massage the animal in order to keep its muscles toned. Obviously their nutrition is also strictly controlled, so that the meat is delicate but tasty. The result? A meat with a very low cholesterol content and a prevalence of unsaturated fats rich in Omega 3 present in the marbling. This is the best wagyu meat, ranked at the A5 level (the highest possible) according to the Japan Meat Grading Association, which deals with the score based on marbling, color, consistency and quality of fats. And this is precisely the meat that Yazawa proposes.
Yazawa’s mission is to bring the values of the omenashi in Italy, that is “sacred hospitality”, offering the customer a unique tailor-made experience. The preparation of the staff and its constant discreet presence are striking: there are detailed descriptions of the origin of the meat, the preparation and quality of the dishes, as well as ad hoc advice both on the dishes and on the beverage — the wine list is in fact designed to combining perfectly with the meat and the dining room sommelier is an attentive and incomparable expert on the subject.
With such prized meat the fear remains of ruining it once brought to the table, because Yazawa is a local yakiniku (ie the customer must cook his own portion of meat by himself). But the obsessive attention to detail has meant that at Yazawa there are special grids made in Japan and imported from the Rising Sun, which allow optimal cooking without ruining the precious meat — not to mention that the staff is always more than available to lend a hand. The grids are in fact made of cast iron and iron, thicker and heavier than normal: in this way they are able to keep the temperature stable over the entire surface evenly, as well as having an unparalleled speed in reaching the desired temperature.
A raw material of such imposing importance, prepared following the canons of Japanese tradition with slight Korean influences (as is the case in Japan, for that matter), which can be enjoyed both at lunch and dinner according to decidedly democratic formulas. All this makes Yazawa a first-rate restaurant, attentive to quality excellence, to the possibility of an ever-increasing number of customers being able to experience the quintessence of taste: umami.
At lunch, in fact, it is possible to order a series of abundant sets with an incredible taste — and affordable for everyone. They include: yakiniku (100g of wagyu) and vegetables for grilling at the table, curry rice, ankake rice (with wagyu ragout), vegetarian bibimbap, menchi katsu (wagyu cutlet), wagyu sushi, sukiyaki, wagyu udon, buta kimchi (sautéed bacon with kimchi), tan tan men (ramen with wagyu ragout), udon with Japanese curry and wagyu. At dinner, instead, it is possible to choose between three tasting menus, three routes in which one is accompanied to better enjoy this precious meat. The first concerns conviviality and includes three small entrances (with the possibility of combining three sake), sukiyaki (top quality meat, tofu, vegetables and egg), shime (udon cooked in sukiyaki sauce), sudachi sorbet as a dessert. The second menu is based on the taste of tradition, that is, just as wagyu is prepared and consumed in Japan. We start with three entrances (wagyu tartare, kimchi and namuru, Yazawa salad), continue with the actual yakiniku, then the curry and end with sorbet. The third and last menu concerns the gourmet tradition, or the yakiniku preparation revisited by the chef Tsuyoshi Noikura. Five entrées are served in traditional Japanese style accompanied by a glass of sake, and then passed to yakiniku cooking: 180g of wagyu accompanied by three different marinades (salt and seed oil, egg, Yazawa sauce). Then there is the shime (a choice of three different options) and a dessert selection. It is also possible to choose from the many à la carte menu options. The chef’s suggestions include homemade kimchi, yukke (wagyu tartare), Japanese-style potatoes with wagyu, menchi katsu, wagyu sushi, horse meat, flame pork, five traditional Japanese entrées, shabu shabu with goto udon.
The starters instead include fresh tofu with wagyu ragout, namban, kinpira, spicy octopus, cucumber salad, mixed salad, namuru, yakibitashi, tuna with Japanese citrus, Red Caesar salad, julienne bacon with roasted potatoes, puntarelle with shiso and garlic. As for the grilled wagyu at the table you can choose between the assortment of the day or the different cuts available (zabuton, shinshin-sankaku, ichibu-nakaniku, rump-rumboso, tomo sankaku-kalbi superior, fillet), as well as the kalbi, horse and pork meat. Finally, further dishes include cocotte rice with wagyu ragout, tan tan men, bibimbap, wagyu-toro don, ochazuke, tokimoki-gohan, shabu shabu udon, somen, goto udon, udon with Japanese curry and wagyu but also soups (kalbi chige, miso rosso, stracciatella, wakame seaweed, chicken broth) and rice in broth (kuppa and stracciatella, vegetarian kuppa). Special mention must be made of wasabi, imported frozen directly from Japan. The best ever tasted in Italy. Desserts: green tea ice cream, sudachi sorbet, creme caramel wasanbon, yuzu panna cotta and cheesecake with fresh seasonal fruit. As already mentioned, the wine and sake list is thick, all of which can be matched with dishes, the result of a careful selection by the sommelier.