Dons de la Nature
Chuo Dori Street
1-7-6 Ginza, Chuo-ko, Tokyo
Best Steak in the World?
Why did we dine here? – After Sushi and Ramen, Steak was our next must try food in Japan. They are home to cattle taken to the next level. Legends of beer guzzling, massage cows danced in our minds. We have had A5 grade Wagyu only once before, at 5A5 in San Francisco. We remember it tasting like artery clogging foie gras.
Wagyu beef is strictly graded by professionals from A-C on the yield of meat vs fat, and 1-5 on color of fat and meat. A hyphen separates the level of beef marbling. The top grade is A5-12. The top level 12 of marbled beef is not imported into the US. Fly to Japan to taste the best. USDA prime would rate an A1 or A2. A4 and A5 are considered premium beef.
The most important factor for grading is “marbling of the beef”, which refers to the white streaks of fat that run through the beef. This fattiness enhances flavor and tenderness and melts at a very low 77 degrees. Many Wagyu are hand brushed and feed rice, wheat, rice bran, spring water, and wheat bran. Many are massaged to enhance their meat. Most are not fed hay, given hormones, or given beer. (There maybe a rare case) Wagyu beef contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (or “good fat”) rich in Omega-3s.
A recent study from the Japan Livestock Industry Association says Wagyu has up to 30% more unsaturated fat than normal Angus cattle.
Wagyu is mistakenly called Kobe beef by many folks. Japanese cattle take the name of the region where they are raised, so Kobe beef is high quality beef raised in the Kobe area. Wagyu steaks should include a copy of the steer’s birth certificate and lineage. There is ‘real’ Kobe beef from the Hyogo prefecture of high grade. The waitress stated that Kobe beef is far fattier and is better used in shabu-shabu than for a steak. She is a goofy character! Later in our trip, we did try Kobe beef Shabu Shabu at Seryna and found their cheaper Japanese premium beef to be good enough.
“Kobe-style” American beef is taken from domestically-raised Wagyu crossbred with Angus cattle. The taste and quality are just not the same as the premium beef in Japan. One look and you can see the difference without taking a bite.
We selected Dons de la Nature as our must visit place as this is a well known top Wagyu (Japanese Cow) Steak restaurant in the heart of Tokyo’s tony Ginza district. Chef Otsuka and his wife run this elegant but small restaurant in the basement of the Kawai office building, next door to a bank, not far from the Sony Building. You can walk through the cool Sony gadget exhibits then get dinner here. The private room accomodates 8, the main dining room has 5 tables. There are other top steakhouses in Toyo but many are hard to get into.
Other alternatives: Since 1967, Aragawa at Shinbashi has been ranked as one of the most expensive steakhouses in the world by Forbes magazine. (Y50000 per person) Aragawa meat is only sourced from cows having won championship prizes at exhibitions. Gorio is their sister restaurant with relaxed beef standards.
Two major styles of cooking Wagyu in Japan are Sumiyaki or charcoal grill vs cooking a la plancha. Don’s using a charcoal grill.
Don’s uses Kuroge-wagyu or Japanese Black Cows, which also make up a majority of Japan’s wagyu. Beef from Kagoshima, Matsuzaka and Kobe could have these types of cows, so they might use beef from any of those areas, whichever they feel is appropriate at the time. The Japan Kansai region produces the three “king” varieties: Matsusaka, Kobe and Ohmi.
Don’s de la Nature’s meat is purchased at the local auction, similar in operation to Tokyo’s Tsijiki fish market. The meat may come from different areas and farms. The cows are usually slaughtered at 28-32 months of age. Most American beef is around 22 months old.
Insider Tip – Get your credit card ready
Cuisine – Steak
Location – Tokyo, Ginza, Japan
Opened – 2005
Service – Dons de la Nature (Gift from Nature in French) had excellent but relaxed service. The waitress / chef’s wife explained everything in English clearly and saw that we hungered for additional information. They were kind enough to bring out slabs of uncut meat, books and maps, and more to tell us the story of their beef. The chef even allowed us to look at their custom designed oven and take pictures.
Verdict – Dons de la Nature fulfilled out need to taste the ultimate in steak. This is a low key small restaurant that specializes in this awesome dish. Wagyu beef is a delicacy reserved for special occasions in Japan. We are please to have eaten this ridiculously expensive steak and lucky to have such friendly hosts.
Reservations are easy to come by with our hotel’s concierge booking us on short notice. They are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Yes.
Dons de la Nature Signature Dishes – Wagyu beef.
Dons de la Nature’s Menu is short and sweet. Either Sirloin or tenderloin Wagyu beef. Select the weight with a minimum of 400 grams. We shared one 400gram or 14 ounce Sirloin portion 4 ways reducing the $$ pain. Others have told us to avoid the tenderloin as the other cut was more flavorful. Expensive wine list with lots of Bordeaux.
Dons de la Nature Food Picks:
Excellent home made bread. 3 different kinds (baguette, brioche, and orange) that were some of the BEST of our Japan trip. We purchased bread at several basement department stores.
Onion Soup (Y2000) – We had to order something to start. The large bowl of soup was not bad. A bit salty.
Vegetable Salad (Y1500) – A huge salad enough for 3-4 people. They will kindly split the portion. Decent but another order to round out the table.
Wagyu A5 grand Sirloin Steak – Matuzaka beef (Y30,000 for 400g – tax included) cooked in their special oven over high quality Kishu Binchotan charcoal from a special oak tree. High temperature searing to 800 to 1000 degrees C locked in the flavor and juiciness. Fat dripping on the coals added a smoke flavor to the meat. The chef seasoned the steak with salt and pepper only, making this a simple dish. They recommended medium rare, so we went with their suggestion.
The meat is wet aged for a month, and also dry aged for a month. On the side, they provide a spicy yellow mustard.
The steak can be cut with a butter knife and melts in your mouth, yet it was not as fatty as foie gras. A strong Angus like aged flavor was detected. Umami can be tasted in this dish. Juicy as heck.
On the side were some yam-like Hokkaido potatoes, giant bean, carrot, mushroom, and broccoli.
The waitress said that Wagyu ribs are used in some Ramen broth. Time to find a place that does this!
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
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