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Cover Story

Your Source For Quality Wagyu

By Ali Resich Photos By LAWRENCE TABUDLO
February 19, 2017

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Chefs Eiji Sugawa and Toru Mitake hold an array of J-Shop's wagyu slabs.

Chefs Eiji Sugawa and Toru Mitake hold an array of J-Shop’s wagyu slabs.

From high-end steak houses to yakiniku restaurants, wagyu beef is the culinary scene’s star steak of the moment — but with a growing number of dining destinations claiming to offer the exclusive Japanese beef, it can be hard to know if you’re always getting authentic cuts, and if you’re paying a fair price for them. That’s why J-Shop owner Hideyoshi Takasawa wants to set the record straight about genuine wagyu, while providing a reliable source for the highly rated meat at his Honolulu-based Japanese grocery.

Tucked away on Young Street, the shop specializes in importing Japanese products, including wagyu beef, and it does so in style. With 40 years of experience in importing, and over 50 in the food industry, Takasawa takes care to personally curate his selection of fresh produce, tofu, natto, meat, seafood and more, being sure to use quality, rather than price, as his guideline. The choice inventory is constantly replenished, as products are flown in fresh — not frozen — three times a week. The owner also regularly flies to Japan to monitor the products and vendors, thus you’ll find a rotating selection of seasonal goods at his shop. If you want to taste some of those imported goodies, you can visit the quaint bento eatery within J-Shop for some traditional Japanese fare.

J-Shop's takeout bento eatery

J-Shop’s takeout bento eatery

During a recent visit to the unique destination, Takasawa gave Dining Out the full scoop on wagyu and how to find it at his store.

While wa means “Japan” and gyu refers to “beef,” not just any Japanese steak earns the title of wagyu. The superlative meat comes from black Kuroge cattle, considered to be the best, as well as the brown Akage breed, both of which are raised in various regions of Japan. (High-quality beef from the well-known Kobe region is just one type of wagyu, for example).

J-Shop's shabu shabu-ready sliced wagyu

J-Shop’s shabu shabu-ready sliced wagyu

With wagyu’s growing popularity, there has been an effort to raise domestic wagyu in the U.S., however the best-quality wagyu remains 100 percent Japan-raised. The Japanese government has its own meat-grading system to differentiate between wagyu cuts, and at J-Shop, only the top-graded A-5 slabs are sold.

At the store, customers will find excellent sirloin, ribeye, chuck-loin and tenderloin wagyu cuts from Nagasaki — the winning prefecture of Japan’s quinquennial National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu — and the Shizuoka region. Though the market price of the beef fluctuates, Takasawa says his wagyu prices range from approximately $75 to $95 per pound. In addition to buying larger chunks, customers may purchase smaller, more affordable pre-sliced packets of wagyu that are ideal for shabu shabu or sukiyaki preparations.

Assorted Sashimi

Assorted Sashimi

“We sell quite a bit of the Japan beef,” confirms Takasawa. “It’s really popular in Japan for shabu shabu, sukiyaki and steak, and you can tell (by looking at it that) the meat has plenty of marbling.”

Through making such high-quality beef available not only to restaurants, but to the everyday consumer as well, Takasawa hopes to share an authentic taste of buttery, rich and tender wagyu with kamaaina diners.

SHOP & DINE

J-Shop is known for its imported Japanese products, but it also is home to an authentic dining spot.

Like a hidden gem within the Young Street shop, the petite bento corner allows diners to satisfy their cravings for meat and seafood bentos, donburi, sashimi and more.

Wagyu Yakiniku Bento ($14.50)

Wagyu Yakiniku Bento ($14.50)

As owner Hideyoshi Takasawa explains, the bentos are made to order for maximum freshness, while the side dishes are prepared in small batches for quality control.

One of the most popular bentos is Wagyu Yakiniku Bento ($14.50), featuring the shop’s top-rated A-5 wagyu beef thinly sliced and marinated to perfection.

“More and more, around 10 to 11 a.m., people line up nowadays,” says Takasawa, in regards to the growing popularity of the bento shop. While it is mainly open for lunch, customers can request the wagyu bento right up until 6 p.m.

J-Shop

1513 Young St., Honolulu
200-5076
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday