Good Eats: 511 Steakhouse (Tokyo)

For at least a decade in my life, I ate a rather limited diet. Growing up in a society that leaped on each and every new fad that came up (no saturated fat! atkins! paelo!), it was hard to know what one should eating so I adopted a slightly strict regimen.

Then I came to Japan. I’m not sure exactly what made me break down those culturally-enforced food stereotypes, but I knew that while I lived here, I didn’t want to deny myself the chance to taste something simply because it “wasn’t good for me”. So I adopted a new policy – “everything in moderation”. And yes, that meant everything.

Had I not gone back to eating meat, I would have missed out on 511 Steakhouse. I’ve tasted some pretty fantastic regional beef before – like Hida beef in Takayama – but this was my chance to eat the famed Kobe beef without having to go to Kobe for it. (And yes, geography buffs, Kobe IS technically closer to my Kumamoto home, but there are no flights there so it’s much less convenient.)

While the menu offered some more affordable options, I decided to spring for the full 8 course meal, where different cuts of Kobe beef are incorporated into each dish. The waiter was extremely helpful and brought me a picture of a cow (labeled in English) that showed where each cut came from on the animal (though the only one I remember is sirloin).

The interior of 511 Steakhouse (Photo courtesy of the 511 website)
The interior of 511 Steakhouse (Source: 511 website)

As the menu was touted as a beef “kaiseki” course, the dishes followed a distinct pattern. Beginning with a beef and bamboo shoot salad, I progressed to a beef “sashimi” appetizer and then a beef and clam clear soup. That was followed by a plate of tempura vegetables and beef, before a selection of seared beef sushi came out.

By this point I was getting full and I still hadn’t made it to the main course. I wouldn’t say the food was disappointing in the least, but none of it made my mouth water.

A selection of beef-themed appetizers
A selection of beef-themed appetizers

The sirloin course thoroughly changed my mind.

Offered as about a dozen cubes of perfectly medium sirloin steak, this next to last course lived up to the hype. To totally draw on a cliche, this beef absolutely melted in my mouth. Full? Hardly. I couldn’t get enough.

Melt in your mouth Kobe beef
Melt in your mouth Kobe beef

By the end of this dish, the attentive waiter sensed my gastric overload and offered to cut my rice portion in half (I gratefully agreed). But I couldn’t pass on dessert, and the ice cream with raspberry sauce was the perfect capper to the meal.

From the service to the food, I would say this meal warranted its price tag. But if you want to try Kobe beef at a more affordable price, try popping in here for their lunch courses. They use the less expensive cuts of beef but if that’s of no concern, the lunch options are a bargain. Check out their website for details and directions.

8 thoughts on “Good Eats: 511 Steakhouse (Tokyo)

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    1. Excellent question, though I personally can’t offer a comparison. From what I know, Dons and Shima seem to be of a slightly higher caliber than 511 and steak connoisseurs would be able to taste the difference. I do know that the subject is highly debated over on Chowhound’s Japan board, so if you haven’t already popped over there, you might get a better opinion from them.

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