1-11220 Voyageur Way
When Nikuya meats had a location on Hastings St near my home in East Vancouver, it was a no-brainer destination for me when I needed a special cut of meat. I am kind of glad that they closed that location as it was starting to be an expensive habit. I was very easy to walk out of there with small bag of meat and a wallet that is close to a hundred dollars lighter.
Nikuya specializes in Japanese-style and imported Japanese meats. Most people come here to shop for their “Kobe” beef.
There seems to be a lot of mis-information about what is and is not “Kobe” beef. Kobe, as it is commonly mistaken, is not a breed of cattle. The closest analogy that I could come up with is that it is a marketing brand similar to “Champagne.” A sparking white wine can only be called “Champagne” if it can be certified to be made from a particular blend of grapes, made using a particular traditional method, and most importantly – be made in a particular region: the Champagne region (or appellation.)
Similar sparkling wines can be made in exactly the same way, but international trade laws disallow (with a few exceptions) the the use of the word “Champagne” to describe the wine. (You often see oblique descriptors on the bottle labels such as “made using methode champenoise.) This designation falls under a class of trade laws called Protected Designation of Origin. Like Champagne, the term “Kobe” is such a protected term.
The other term thrown around is “Wagyu” – which, contrary to what many say, is also not a breed – but a class of cattle breeds known for its well fat-marbled meat. There are actually five different breeds of cattle that fall within this Wagyu classification.
So what excatly is “Kobe Beef?” To be designated “Kobe Beef”, the meat has to come from a type of Wagyu cattle (the actual breed is called Tajima) raised and processed within the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan. Thus, Kobe beef is not a breed – it is a protected trademark of a particular regional beef.
I note that Nikuya calls some of their meat “Kobe”. Their rationale for such labeling is that the meat is of the same grade (A4 and A5 – the top two grades in the Japanese beef grading scale) as the true Kobe products. I can assure you that it is definitely a well-marbled piece of meat. You can get American and Australian Wagyu beef for far less than the Japanese products with very little drop in perceived quality to my own impartial non-chauvinistic palate.
Another popular product here is their Kurobuta Pork – a meat also known for its fat-marbling and also for its strong “pork” flavour (compared to common supermarket pork). Korubuta, like Kobe, is a protected designation for a hybrid breed of pigs which are raised and processed in the Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan.
The Berkshire pig was introduced into Japan in the late 1800’s – and was inter-bred with Chinese and Thai pigs into the pig we now know as “Kurobuta.” Unlike in the Kobe/Wagyu debate where gastro-chauvinism often rears its head and Kobe “has to” come from Hyogo to be considered “Kobe”, the Japanese connoisseurs consider Berkshire imported from England to be the premium product. The Kurobuta here is sourced from pure American true Berkshire stock.
If you do decide to visit their shop front and don’t want to be too extravagant – try their Smoke Kurobuta Ham, Smoked Beef Tongue, and their sausages. And for those looking for horsemeat – this is one of the handful of places in town where you can purchase it.