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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MUFA Day#23: Beef Bowl War in Tokyo

Tokyo now has a Beef Bowl War, called "Gyudon War."  If you've been reading this blog site:
  • On Saturday night I had a 0.4 pound cut of Kobe Beef (right) at New York Grill for $400/pound, which is reasonable, considering that a pound of the best Japanese beef in Mitsukoshi is $230/pound.
  • What about American beef?
    • The average wholesale price of beef in the U.S. today is $2/pound.  
    • The sirloin retail price is $7/pound.  The Los Angeles Times earlier this month reported that USDA choice-grade beef jumped to an all time record high of $5.28/pound.
    • A high end meat purveyor (also known as a butcher shop) would sell never-frozen USDA Prime Black Angus Boneless Rib Eye Steaks (one piece shown to the right) totaling 6.5 pounds, for $232, or $37/pound.

  • Returning to Japanese beef:
    • Kobe does not produce the most expensive beef in Japan.  Sentiment shows that Matsuzaka and Omi (or Ohmi, to the right) grow "better" wagyu beef.
    • Wagyu is a combination of wa (Japan) and gyu (cow).
    • In the U.S., prime beef must have from 6-8% marbled fat to qualify for the highest USDA grade.
    • In Japan, the best wagyu MUST be 25% marbled fat or higher.
    • So is this fat bad for your health?  Amazingly enough, NO!  Fat in Japanese beef is primarily mono-unsaturated, which lowers high density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol.
    • This Japanese beef fat, furthermore, has a lower melting point, so the meat is more tender, flavorful and literally, melts in your melt.
To continue my four straight days of beef consumption:
  • Sunday night, I went to Lawry's The Prime Rib (right), paying about one-fourth for the meat dish compared to New York Grill.
  • Monday night I ordered a take-out from Burger King, and paid one-tenth of my Lawry's bill.
  • Today, I will invade the area around Shibuya Station to try:
    • Yoshinoya ($2.94/bowl)
    • Matsuya ($2.84/bowl)
    • Sukiya ($2.65/bowl)
The average price is about one-fourth of my Burger King feast last night, where, granted, I also had onion rings and a tiny salad...but there is a lot of rice in those bowls, with toppings.  Fortuitously, this morning The Japan Times had a major article entitled,  "No sacred cows in Japan's beef bowl war."

Now I know what to look for when I get to those three restaurants.  My biggest decision of the day will be:  Do I finish each bowl, or merely taste test?  I might add that the biggest reason why these three Japanese beef chains have an ongoing war is that they are responding to that dastardly American intruder, McDonald's, which dropped their hamburgers on weekdays to 64 cents.  They all exclusively use American beef.

Shibuya Station is only one stop from my station, Ebisu.  Shibuya, incidentally, will be totally rebuilt beginning next year, and will be teady in a decade.  A 46-story building will be constructed adjacent to this stop.

Just a few minutes from the station I found a Yoshinoya:

I went in, pointed at their 300 ($2.94) yen item, the beef bowl came in a minute, I topped it with some pickled ginger:

I still had two more of these to go, so I ate half the beef and onion topping and one third the rice.  I liked the taste, and really wanted to finish it...but didn't.  I was out of there in five minutes.  A hundred yards away was another Yoshinoya, but a minute later, Sukiya:

The sign said 250 yen, but in small print also snuck in 270 yen, adding the new tax.  Same process:

I would guess that the bowl was slightly smaller, the taste was great, you could actually discern some meat, plus the fat was evident, and there was a wider assortment of stuff to pour on.   I consumed the whole beef/onion top and half the rice.  Five minutes, I was gone.  I then walked around Shibuya for half an hour, and couldn't find Matsuya.  I sat next to some beautiful azaleas to rest:

After a few minutes of gazing at hordes of people walking past me, I snooped around another 15 minutes.  No Matsuya.  So I paused next to another azalea bush:

I then talked to two policemen, who pointed in the general direction of Starbucks:

This scene is important, for if you want to repeat my experiment, Starbucks (and there is only one) is clearly visible at the giant intersection where thousands are crossing the street.  I then headed towards that Japanese flag, and, of all the things, ended up exactly where I had my second meal:

See Sukiya to the right?  If you click on that photo, in the background you will see McDonald's, with Burger King peaking out on the right.   Matsuya, it turned out, is sort of across this walking lane, but I didn't know the first time because everything is in Japanese:

Incredibly enough, the price for their beef bowl was only $2.35, and ALSO included a bowl of miso soup:

There was no added tax.  The bowl, I would guess, was a shade smaller than Sukiya's.

I finished the whole thing!  I took seven minutes here, for the hot soup slowed me down.  Here is what the interior of Matsuya looks like, and almost the same can be said of Yoshinoya and Sukiya:

I wasn't nauseatingly filled, so thought, why not?  I ordered a chocolate frappuccino at Starbucks, went upstairs, and a couple was nice enough to allow me to sit next to them in the prime view spot:

To the right I noticed a political protest or rally.  Something to do with TPP, or the Trans Pacific Partnership pact, that disappointed President Obama on his stop here last week:

So I walked to listen what was being said:

Of course, the speeches were in Japanese, so I couldn't figure out if this group was for or against the TPP.

I would say that Matsuya was the best buy, and Sukiya had the best beef bowl.  The total cost of my three lunches was much less than my Burger King dinner last night.  Again, that factor of 4 prevailed when comparing one lunch with my previous dinner.  I'm now contemplating finding that 64 cent McDonald's for lunch tomorrow with a free glass of water to cut costs by another factor of 4.  Thus, if you divide the cost of  this McDonald's hamburger into the New York Grill meal, the factor is 640!!!  The irony is that the cheapest meal is American!  Could this be the photo of this mythical hamburger?


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