It’s good. Hella good. When it comes to wagyu, I have to say Ishigaki beef stole my heart. Yes, I’d pick this over Kobe beef any day. It’s simply unforgettable. Lucky for us, this was widely available in Okinawa. Makes sense since the Ishigaki islands are basically neighbors. Getting the meat fresh should be easy. And what I’ve been finding out since my encounter of this beef has been eye opening. First of all, most, if not all, of the cattle raised to produce the world renown wagyu, such as Kobe and Matsuzaka, have been brought in from Ishigaki. There’s just some special characteristics of this breed that’s making them more sought out. And now the island is producing their very own grade for regional consumption. Marketed as a “healthier” fat, the beef has grown in popularity in the recent decade. Fortunately for us, we leveled up in this sitting of with Ishigaki beef.
In an unassuming section of Mishiki Public Market, there’s a small little shop named Shishiya serving cuts of this beef. It seems to be a local hang out with the occasional tourists, like us. And when I say small I mean there’s bar seating for about six inside with several tables outside. It’s an eat-and-go spot. But for us, it was a night of overindulgence.
We stopped by before lunch to make reservations for dinner at 7pm. It looked as though this wasn’t a normal thing for them, but they took my name anyways. We really wanted a seat at the bar and sure enough, that night, we got them!
The staff was very accommodating. The host did his best to drop any English he knew while letting us know his favorite cuts. Given the many cuts to choose from, we were happy with any advice. After we ordered and got our drinks, the cooking started. We watched as the chef worked his magic. He was very thoughtful presenting each dish, letting me snap a photo and explaining how to eat it. Oh and you gotta try beef with yuzukoshō, a citrus salt and pepper paste. That stuff was amazing. Sorry horseradish, I’ve found a new lover. Back to the beef. It tender and the fat was not overwhelming. Usually the richness limits of Kobe beef limits you to one cut of steak. This stuff… wow. I could keep eating. We had to order more. The sirloin. The rump. The hamburger. It went on and on. Oh it was shameful. By the end of the meal, we had five cuts of beef along with our appetizers. The host must have thought it was our last meal. And thinking back, it sorta was. We were in heaven.
3 Chome-1-1 Makishi
Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0013 Japan
Verdict: As an inexpensive introduction into Ishigaki beef, this place is a must.
Follow the path from the Kokusaidori entrance past the closed shops about a few hundred yards and you'll find Shishiya like a little oasis of life.
Like I said, the place is pretty small. So don't be too upset if you have to wait for a seat.
Our starters came out pretty quick. First up were the beef tongue nigiri. The beef tongue was lightly seared, cut thin and topped with salt, wasabi, and yuzu pepper. A bit too chewy but the toppings makes it worthwhile.
Next up was the fatty beef nigiri topped with Okinawa salt and green onions. These were okay and given that this was a steak house and not a sushi shop, I'll give this a thumbs up since you'll get to taste Ishigaki beef in its raw form.
You can say this was our salad since the greens out matched the proteins. Not sure what cut of beef these were, but they were tasty. Our next dishes simply washed out the memories of these morsels.
On to the main course, which was the filet. Although it looked a bit fattier than I'd expect from a cut of filet mignon, the tenderness was there. Topped with Okinawa salt and pepper, this was a wonderful dish to start the main journey.
Notice that this is cooked beyond medium rare and look at how limp it's hanging there. Yeah, the fat content is still very high in this beef. Yet it doesn't taste like you eating nothing but animal fat.
Our last but not really last cut was the sirloin served with a side of that yuzukosho. Oh this had me in wide eyed disbelief on first bite. So tender and oh so yummy. I almost cried when we finished. At that point, we realized we had to go all in. A few more cuts at this price was priced at about one cut of this stuff back home. And where can we find this in the states anyways.
This was one of the dishes we got food porn'd into ordering. It's as tender as you can imagine even after being cooked to a well done. Delicious.
The saving the best for the last was the rump cut. By now, we were getting quite full and still, this was amazeballs! It looks like any other cut of steak right? No, when you pick up a piece, it's not firm. It'll hang off your chopsticks like a noodle and tastes like heaven when you bite into it. Oh rump cut how I love thee.
What makes a restaurant even more memorable, a friendly enjoyable staff. He it was the chef, on the left, and the host/waiter, on the right. Very social people but in no way intrusive. They made us feel right at home while we guiltily ordered almost everything off the menu. Okay, not "everything" but everything beef related.
Sitting at the bar we got to observe the preparation of every meal, which inevitably influenced us to order more. "Ooooo that cut looks yummy" said my belly.
I mean literally, here's how you can tell a place has Ishigaki beef. Just look for the sign. =)
Their selection of beef is showcased out by the side of the restaurant. I didn't realize they had Kobe beef here as well. That would have been nice to taste them side by side.