A beef addict hits Niku no Mansei
I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to meat. A carnivore to the core. I don't feel alive unless I've dined on juicy, rare beef.
I got a tip from a fellow junkie about a place called Niku no Mansei (Kanda Sudacho 2-21, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 0120 4129 01), located in Kanda just a short walk from Akihabara station.
Built as a veritable shrine to bovine goodness, each floor of Mansei's ten-story tower is dedicated to a different form of beef preparation. The building was originally spun off from a radio parts vendor based in the electronics area of Akihabara. At first, there was only a little storefront that sold fried beef-and-potato croquettes, but the building has grown into one of the few large-scale restaurants in the area, even boasting a wholly-owned ranch from which to source.
The menus get more complicated and prices rise as the floors climb, making Mansei feel like the 36 chambers of Shaolin viewed through the feverish eyes of a beef-addled addict.
The quest begins: Steak House
Ignoring the bar in the basement, I begin my journey on the ground floor. Alas, this holds only a quaint noodle shop and prepared foods section. I quickly make my way to the second floor, where the real meat of Niku no Mansei begins.
The steakhouse here -- called Steak House -- prides itself in using wagyu bred for low fat content, in sharp contrast to the heavily-marbled varieties common elsewhere. The dim lighting, smoky atmosphere and antique wooden furniture make it feel like a true men's club. The gigantic steak, baked potato and glass of hearty red wine do nothing to alter this impression. I gorge myself, and then ascend.
The 3rd and 4th floors house a slightly upscale family-style restaurant called Mansei with children and Hamburg steaks galore. I find myself seeking a more transcendental beef experience and continue my upward journey.
Five and seven: Yakiniku grilled beef and shabu shabu boiled beef
The fifth floor entices me with the rich scent of yakiniku. This is Mansei Bokujo. No Tokyo meat eater can resist the marbled beef slices, sweet sauces and charcoal grilling of this barbecue favorite. I pause to partake in some tongue and diaphragm (harami). I have made it halfway up the building; this is the point of no return.
Ascending again, I reach the 7th floor's Shichifukujin (the 6th is a dedicated kitchen) and a large dining room with hot plates at each table -- it's shabu-shabu time. I place some thin slices of wagyu into flavorful broth, swis, and dip in sour ponzu to complete the experience. I cannot remain long, however, as the upper floors still beckon.
The 8th floor is a rentable banquet space complete with in-house catering, and the 9th floor is yet another sukiyaki and shabu-shabu area called Mikage -- this time with Japanese-style décor, tatami mats and higher prices. I know that the biggest beef score in the city is just one staircase away, and I forge on.
The final level: Chiyoda
I have arrived at the pièce de résistance: the tenth and highest floor of Mansei. The restaurant here is called Chiyoda. Diners are seated at communal tables with amazing views of the city while chefs prepare teppanyaki on hot griddles. I order wagyu filet and watch as the chef slices, dices, flips and fiddles with my food until I am presented with perhaps the most delicate and flavorful piece of beef I have ever eaten.
Utterly sated, I ask for the bill as I head for the elevator. The figure on the check sends me crashing -- my high all but forgotten. Hey, no one said chasing the meat dragon would come cheap.