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.
To spare you on the back story, I got treated to dinner for a hot tub incident. Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it. So let’s just say, out of it, I got to go to one of my favorite Japanese places, Eiji. It’s a small little place in the Castro near Dolores and 16th. And when I say small, it’s small. Intimate even. You may have to wait for a seat. But it’s not extremely popular and actually, I love how it’s flying under the radar to most foodies. I mean *pffft* it’s only 4 stars on Yelp. Why bother? Yes, don’t bother. There’s enough people waiting in line. A good thirty minutes on occasions. Let’s not make it any worse.
Now on to the restaurant.
There was enough variety here to try and it was the first time for my friends. What else to do than to eat omakase style. Don’t know what that is? You’re on the internet reading this, go look it up. The specials here do change but not often. I didn’t see this tofu and yuzu dish I had here. I really wanted my friends to try it and, as you can guess, get the name of the dish and probably a photo of it… along with an excerpt. What? That’s why you’re reading this right? Anyways, this was a great way to try everything. I didn’t see the owners around but whoever was preparing our dishes knew how to keep the anticipation up. From the light dishes to the heavy the staff kept the timing good. We only waited for our next dish a few times, but I have to say, we tend to forget what dinner is for, catching up with friends. But you don’t want to hear about that. This place is great if you want more than just good sushi. The solid Japanese dishes prepared here won’t knock you off your feet, but as you eat at other Japanese restaurants here in San Francisco, you’ll be surprised craving some of the dishes found here. I did.