Two new limited-time menu items at the restaurant feature Kobe beef, so we pulled out all of the stops to feel worthy of this gastronomic celebration.

Marugame Seimen is one of our favorite places to grab a delicious and reasonably priced bowl of udon. In fact, our Japanese-language correspondent Ahiruneko had even previously gotten the inside scoop from one of the four certified master udon craftsmen in all of Tokyo who work for the restaurant chain. As a bonus, he also got added to the restaurant’s special media contact list for press releases and promotional events.

Our story for today began on a typical day at the office a few days ago. Ahiruneko was working diligently at his desk when he heard a low muttering sound coming from somewhere, so he glanced around. The source of the under-his-breath soliloquy turned out to be P.K. Sanjun, another one of our Japanese-language reporters who once took on the Spicy Mapo Tofu of Hell and barely lived to tell the tale.

▼ P.K. Sanjun

The chanting was low enough that Ahiruneko couldn’t make out what P.K. was saying.

Curiosity got the better of him, so Ahiruneko decided to get a little bit closer.

P.K.’s intense concentration sure was impressive.

It was hard to understand, even when standing right next to him. But as Ahiruneko strained his ears he could finally make some sense out of the rambling. “I want to eat meat,” was P.K.’s neverending refrain to himself.

Ahiruneko retreated back to his desk with a laugh and just chalked the muttering up to another one of P.K.’s idiosyncratic quirks. At that moment, however, his phone starting ringing. It was his contact from Marugame Seimen!

▼ Yes, he had saved Marugame Seimen in his phone simply as “Udon.”

Ahiruneko answered and was thrilled to learn that the restaurant was offering him the opportunity to sample two of their new menu items that featured Kobe beef ahead of the nationwide public release date of July 6. He enthusiastically responded that he would be there.

All throughout the call, P.K. sat as still as a stone…

…but suddenly sprang to life. “MEAT!” he announced loudly, as if possessed by the gods of expensive wagyu.

That darn P.K.–he had been listening to the entire phone conversation! Ahiruneko thought that there was no other way around it but to extend the invitation to his colleague as well. It wasn’t every day that you could try Kobe beef at a local udon restaurant–and the guy really seemed to be in the mood for meat–so he decided to be generous.

At that point, P.K. struck his thinking pose and began musing. “Hmm. Marugame Seimen was founded in Hyogo Prefecture, which is also where Kobe beef is from [Kobe is the capital of Hyogo]. It would be disrespectful to the cows to wear just anything to this incredible experience. I absolutely must get dressed up for the occasion.”

With that P.K. took off, walking in the opposite direction of the restaurant location that they needed to go for the menu sampling. Baffled but intrigued, Ahiruneko had no choice but to follow after him.

P.K. stopped in front of a salon called Ashuley. It wasn’t just a hair salon, P.K. told Ahiruneko, but something else.

He promptly entered the establishment and disappeared from view.

Ahiruneko was left waiting for almost an hour, his patience wearing thin by non-stop thoughts of delicious Kobe beef and udon.

Suddenly, a noble-looking gentleman exited the shop.

Wait a minute…

“So sorry to keep you waiting,” the unknown-but-entirely-dashing fellow announced.

It was P.K.!! He had undergone an extreme transformation to become none other than his new alternate persona P.K. the Celebrity. It was a complete turnabout from his previous sweats-clad look as he was now spiffed up in a tuxedo with a black bowtie and long, luscious, wavy hair.

He was definitely donned in attire befitting a celebrity who was ready to encounter a high-level grade of beef. “OK, let’s get this party started,” P.K. the Celebrity remarked.

And that was how P.K. the Celebrity and Ahiruneko finally made their grand arrival at the restaurant. The fragrance of Kobe beef being grilled already permeated the space, and they felt more ready than ever to begin the luxurious feast.

First up was the Kobe beef udon with deliciously spicy dipping sauce. After being boiled, the noodles had been dipped in cold water and were glistening in wait under a hefty layer of Kobe beef grilled sukiyaki-style, all topped with a generous portion of sliced white spring onions, shredded nori, and a drizzle of sesame oil.

It was a true mountain of meat! In fact, there was so much of it that they could only barely make out the noodles underneath. Restaurant staff assured them though that there were actually 1.5 servings worth of udon hiding in wait.

The specially crafted dipping sauce was made from a base of spicy chili oil. It was a divine combination with the noodles and beef.

The noodles themselves were cooked to perfection as always at Marugame Seimen–springy and with plenty of body. Of course, the Kobe beef was out of this world as well.

The chili oil in the dipping sauce certainly packed a punch and our reporters found their tongues tingling with the spicy kick. Even so, it only served to enhance the pure umami flavor of the beef, which demonstrated just how different it was from any run-of-the-mill cut that would be overpowered.

“This has got to be expensive,” P.K. the Celebrity mused in between bites. “But I don’t have to worry about money as a wealthy person, so I’ll assign my own price to it. I predict that this dish will come to around 50,000 yen (US$450).”

“That’s too much!” Ahiruneko almost choked on his udon. He would have to get a part-time job on top of his regular job to cover that if it were true…!

“Sorry for causing any alarm,” P.K. the Celebrity replied. “Let’s finish eating and worry about the price later.”

A few moments went by before he broke the silence again. “Yup, I’d say 55,000 yen.”

Why had his price prediction gone up?! It was at this point though that the pair learned the truth from the restaurant staff. This bowl of noodles in reality only cost 890 yen, so P.K. the Celebrity’s prediction was thankfully waaay off. Ahiruneko was able to finish his portion with ease of mind.

They hadn’t forgotten about the other dish on the horizon, however, and so now they prepared to indulge in the Kobe beef yakiniku rice bowl (590 yen). It consisted of a bowl of piping hot rice topped with delectable slices of Kobe beef and adorned with an egg yolk and sesame seeds.

Delicious slices of garlic and ginger were also threaded throughou the meat. Just the yakiniku aroma alone was enough to whet their appetites again. This meal would either be the end of them completely or ruin their taste for all other beef dishes forevermore.

P.K. the Celebrity boldly poked the glistening egg yolk with a chopstick. “Hey, cut it out…!” screeched Ahiruneko.

Alas, it was too late.

P.K. the Celebrity looked pleased with himself as the glistening yolk ran over the rest of the dish’s contents.

The umami flavors of the meat, dipping sauce, and fat all banded together to create a tidal wave of flavor inside the mouth. They added a bit of wasabi into the mix as well and it further intensified the taste.

All at once Ahiruneko noticed that P.K. the Celebrity had abandoned his chopsticks in favor of a spoon. He was now witnessing the legendary fast-eating technique known as the “Sato Tornado” devised by none other than our very own ace reporter Mr. Sato for maximum shoveling of food into one’s mouth.

▼ Three…

▼ Two…

▼ One…

The bowl was completely clean!!

It was possible that P.K. the Celebrity had performed the technique with even greater effectiveness than its inventor, Mr. Sato.

That’s when it occurred to Ahiruneko that a real celebrity would never have licked their bowl clean. In response to this objection, P.K. the Celebrity vaguely countered that he was moved by the spirit of Marugame Seimen–whatever that meant.

“Marugame Seimen’s goal is to provide energy to Japan through the power of udon, so I was showing my own support to its producers,” he added. In other words, he was showing deep appreciation to the folks who should be thanked for feeding Kobe beef to the general public.

He further explained that only the top Tajima cattle that are raised according to strict procedure in Hyogo Prefecture are allowed to bear the title of Kobe beef. It’s all thanks to the efforts of the diligent farmers and restaurant workers who work tirelessly that people like them could enjoy such a delicious meal.

Quite honestly, Ahiruneko still didn’t think that reason was an excuse worthy of a celebrity in order to lick his bowl clean, but he decided to let it go at that point. They headed back to the office feeling perfectly satisfied and thankful that this was the kind of task they could do in the name of work.

On a side note, Marugame Seimen has offered dishes featuring Kobe beef three times in the past. According to the restaurant, the last time they offered Kobe beef as part of their menu it sold out within a week. They anticipate a similar thing might happen this time around.

The stock will probably vary from location to location, but Ahiruneko still encourages any interested diners to get to one of the restaurant locations as quickly as possible after July 6. After all, it’s not often that you can sample real Kobe beef for such reasonable prices.

Oh, and he has one final piece of advice. If you do go to eat either of the new Kobe beef menu items…

…there’s absolutely no need to transform yourself into a celebrity for the occasion.

References: Marugame Seimen, Ashuley
All images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!</
[ Read in Japanese ]