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Ishigaki beef draws high marks for flavor

Date Posted: 2009-08-20

The name’s not yet familiar to some, but Makoto Nakamoto is working to make Ishigaki beef a household word.

The manager of Yakiniku Kinjo in Chatan, Nakamoto wants to make his beloved Ishigaki beef a household word, placing the goal right alongside customer service and satisfaction. He’s the first to admit Ishigaki beef’s not the least expensive, but counters with the point Ishigaki beef’s the best tasting meat in the country, even having been served to VIPs at the 2000 Summit and at other major functions on Okinawa.

Yakiniku Kinjo has its own cattle ranch on Ishigaki Island in southern Okinawa Prefecture, little more than a stone’s throw from Taiwan. To be precise, Ishigaki Island is 410 kilometers southwest of Naha City. Ishigaki beef is a special breed, and Yakiniku Kinjo uses young cows who’ve grown up eating natural green grasses specially grown and fermented for feed, and who’ve enjoyed life in the wide Ishigaki meadow. Nakamoto and his boss have forged relationships with local farmers for them to tend to his cows and operate his distribution system.

That’s only the beginning, though. Yakiniku Kinjo is not an all-you-can-eat restaurant, but is the best of the best in beef sirloin. Nakamoto, who manages Yakiniku Kinjo, says “people are apt to think we’re an expensive teppanyaki restaurant, but the truth is, we’re not.” The restaurant offers courses or individual dishes, with beef sirloin ¥880 per serving. A first class beef sirloin goes for ¥1,380, and the exquisite high beef sirloin is ¥1,880.

Yakiniku Kinjo, which also has two branches on Ishigaki Island and five at Kansai in mainland Japan, features group courses for 4-5 persons for ¥10,800. A group set for 3-4 people is ¥7,250. The cooking’s done at the table, by the guest, with help as needed by the friendly staff. “We always aim at good service, to satisfy customer’s requests. We change the cook grills when they’re stained, even before the customer realizes it.”

Yakiniku, meaning grilled meat, is a Japanese term that covers plenty of ground. Beef is the predominant meat, but chicken, seafood and vegetables often find their way onto menus. Japanese yakiniku differs from Korean yakiniku, although many people think of them as the same. The confusion comes from dishes served by Korean immigrants in the Kansai area after World War II.

Diners here order prepared raw ingredients, which are then brought to the table and cooked on a built-in grill. Ingredients are often dipped in tare, a sauce, before being savored and eaten. The soy-based dips are typically flavored with sugar, sake, garlic and sesame, although a garlic-shallot combination, or miso-based dips, are also popular.

Yakiniku Kinjo offers special half-price menus once a month. The special is for a limited time, normally 90 minutes, to promote the goodness of the sought-after Ishigaki beef. Ishigaki beef is also sold for take out at Yakiniku Kinjo.

The restaurant is located near Camp Foster, at Kitamae, Chatan Town. Reservations may be made at (098) 983-7566. Yakiniku Kinjo is open daily 11:30 a.m. to midnight, with last orders at 11:30 p.m. The restaurant has plenty of free parking. To get there, head north from Foster Commissary Gate, and turn left at the second traffic light. Yakiniku Kinjo is on the corner, to your right.

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