I have some questionable videos on my DSLR, so I decided to leave it at home which sucks because I ended up at Kobe An (so enjoy my subpar iPhone 7 pics instead).
Based upon only my first visit, I Greg hereby decree by the power of the internet that Kobe An is a legit Japanese restaurant
My circle of trust for Japanese restaurants is a tiny handful of restaurants in Colorado, so it’s good to be able to add another one to the short list.
The (semi) short summary aka TL;DR
- Authentic: One of only a small handful of authentic Japanese places in all of Colorado (check out my previous post “Authentic as it’s going to get for Japanese food in Colorado.“)
- Miso soup: A properly done miso soup. Yea, I’m hyping up their miso soup because it might be a basic menu item, but they do it right unlike so many others.
- Quality: This is the best place to try shabu shabu in Colorado because of the quality of the ponzu dipping sauce, and the plentiful amount of vegetables and actual Japanese ingredients used.
- Beef, seafood, to vegetarian: They do it right by offering a range of grades and meats which go from your Choice grade beef rib-eye (reg $25/lrg $35), to your pricier American wagyu/Japanese beef (reg $59/lrg $86) from Snake River Farms (SRF)/Double R Ranch, to a vegetarian option (reg $15/lrg $19).
- Real shabu shabu: Kobe An does their broths right which is simply water and kombu although they offer a number of other Japanese inspired broths for those of you that insist on residing in flavortown (vs. natural and savory).
- Matcha soft serve!: One of the biggest highlights here is the matcha (green tea) soft serve, and I would come here just for that, and you should too.
- Nihonjin: Not a pretentious place which is why it feels very Japanese.
- Encino man: Marco T. (the owner dude) had lived in Encino where he got to see some of the Jackson family, but I’d only care if he got to meet Bubbles although I bring it up because he’s been to some solid spots in Little Tokyo Los Angeles.
Now the long-winded version (me being me)
I had this spot on my radar due to the look of the traditional Japanese exterior and patio, but what caught my interest is that somewhere down the line, I got into an online discussion because of a comment I think made on Kobe An’s Instagram ad. The response I got back made me want to try this place out although just don’t ask me what my comment, remark, or question was, or what exactly the response was. I just remember, from that response, I had to go.
I would typically avoid going out to eat shabu shabu
When I eat nabe (Japanese hot pot) such as motsunabe (tripe), sukiyaki (soy-based meat and veggie hot pot), to shabu shabu, I do it at home because I do it right. Which is why it is also my go-to dish to prepare for a date night meal. Unfortunately, being back in Colorado, I only have myself to date, and I can’t get the quality of ingredients (my type of females are also non-existent here) that are readily available living in Los Angeles which leaves me to my only option which is to go out for shabu shabu.
The other reason I had avoided going out to eat at “shabu shabu” restaurants in Los Angeles is that there are all too many business owners who are trying to play people as being Japanese. They are all from it, and they are actually doing hot pot which is also one of my favorite foods too, so why do they gotta fake it? I thought there’s no need to “Mimi Miyagi” it (obscure porn star reference: she’s Filipina, but she has quasi Japanese showbiz name) in this day and age?!
Once at Kobe An, I kicked things off with more beer
I had been in the area because I had planned on going to the Original Chubby’s, but I ended up at Avanti’s bar.
Sitting at the bar at Avanti, a dude named Raul struck up a convo which quickly turned into an opportunity to learn a thing or two because he was a butcher with several decades of experience. How could I pass up an opportunity to learn from an industry pro?
I had to ask about various meat cuts, and about pork bones for stock which turned into a talk about lengua, cabeza, tripitas, birria, and buche which only got me hungrier. So after blowing several hours at the bar, I decided a 14 min walk on over to Chubby’s wasn’t going to happen and that a couple blocks on over to Kobe An was the right call. #becauselazy
Walking in through the door for the first time
Walking in, I liked the vibe even though I didn’t hear “irrashaimase,” but I overheard the bartender telling a couple sitting at the bar that he was going to Japan, so that was cool which is why I also decided to sit at the bar.
Most of you who read my blog have been to Japan, so if you have also been to any Japanese restaurant in Colorado, you will know that only Domo, Kiki’s, Kobe An, and both Osaka’s and Amu in Boulder pass for feeling like Japan.
Denver Restaurant Week
I ended up at Kobe An during Denver Restaurant Week, and they were offering up a $35 prix fixe menu which can be a good or a bad thing.
Fortunately for me, Kobe An provided an amazing deal for $35 because it could have fed two, and I couldn’t finish it all even though I can not stand to waste food (I only wasted the udon, zosui was not an option).
A good omen sitting at the bar was that I had sat next to two regulars. Although, the surprising thing to see were the two guys that had sat next to me on my left side. They were both nurses in Denver for work, and one was from the Philippines who had lived in Japan at one point and his buddy was from Hiroshima, Japan. That was super cool, but they were tired and only stuck around to try the okonomiyaki.
If you never had shabu shabu before, check out my post “everything in a pot is not shabu shabu.”
To nitpick, those carrots are way too thick, and if you’re going to have them this thick, at least have them cut more aesthetically. I also wish they had Japanese greens like shungiku and a ton of Chinese napa cabbage.
The reason I make a big deal of rolled meat is that it’s frozen that way to maintain its shape. Now, if you have ever heard the advertisements by In’n’Out that they do not use frozen meat patties because it ruins the meat. The water in the meat, when frozen, forms ice crystals that rupture the fibre and muscle cell structure.
“If you haven’t figured it out by now”
Remember that bartender I mentioned earlier, well here’s a conversation I later had with him (his named turned out to be Marco).
- Marco: (after probably an hour chatting with Marco) he said “you do realize by now that I’m the owner?”
- My drunken self: I was like “no, I didn’t realize that,” and I didn’t figure that out because I was thinking: 1. I don’t expect to see most owners working the bar in a restaurant (well shabu shabu bar, but it is primarily a bar), 2. dude wasn’t an obnoxious cocky fock, and instead he was chill AF who just seemed like he knew his shit. 3. he didn’t have the obvious cues that said “I’m the owner biaaatch (like a Richard Mille watch)!”
- Marco: he then said, “I thought you’d catch on after I had said that I had been here for 5+ years.”
- My drunken self: well, I did not because there are a number of businesses where the staff have been with the company for decades (like Sushi Den) or since day one, and they are all far from being the owners.
I think I justified that I’m not an oblivious mofo, and that dude here is just not a pretentious guy that comes off like a cocky business owner.
Eating at most Americanized Japanese food restaurants is a journey of “WTF” because 95% of the businesses don’t even get what Japanese food is, and you might think I’m exaggerating although I swear the Japanese food here in Colorado is as Mexican as Taco Bell is to Mexican food. Not so with Kobe An, and I’m glad the people and staff are also cool as hell too.
In California, Japanese soft-serve is infamous, especially matcha (green tea) and hojicha (roasted green tea) which are one of the things I really miss because I used to live only 12 minutes away from Matcha Love.
Why Kobe An is the spot for shabu shabu in Denver:
- The range and quality of meat: I obnoxiously grilled Marco on the way they had prepared the sliced meat (rolled it) because there are all too many places trying to pass off hot pot as shabu shabu. The major difference is that they not only use low-quality meat, but they also subject their meat to freezer burn. If you don’t believe me, there’s an Asian market in Aurora filled with freezer burned meat that they try to pass off as “shabu shabu” meat. It is that major detail on why you will want to go to Kobe An because they take a higher level of care with the way they refrigerate and control the humidity to not freezer burn the meat (doing it right).
- Ponzu (citrus soy sauce): Not all ponzu is created equally, and the ones I enjoy the most are made with yuzu citrus (the one from Umaji-mura is my favorite) with sudachi rounding out the range of ponzu’s, but there are a number of cheap ponzu’s which yuzu citrus is non-existent in, but Kobe An has a decent quality one.
- Yasai (vegetables): This is the part that baffles me the most because there are certain flavors that define shabu shabu, and if you don’t use them, you might as well be doing hot pot where it’s a pot of anything you want to throw in it. At Kobe An they don’t go light on the veggies, and I had to force myself to eat the meat since I love my vegetables (the only odd vegetable was the white onion).
- Sashimi (sliced raw fish): I wasn’t expecting to eat sashimi here, but dude knows about Kagaya in Little Tokyo LA. It’s a spot in Honda Plaza, one of the best places in LA for shabu shabu. They are one of only four to five places in LA that I think deserves five stars, so he knows how they serve a sashimi appetizer that is done right.
- Dessert: I sensed a teardrop forming when I had found out that they had matcha SOFT-SERVE!!! So not only did they have it, but they also served it with adzuki (red bean) with pocky to top it all off.
- The staff: The people here only make this find all that much better because there’s nothing like a dipshit staff to eff things up regardless of how good the food is.
Kobe An LoHi and Cherry Creek
There are two “Kobe An” restaurants, one in LoHi (kobeandenver.com) and the other in Cherry Creek (kobean.com). Kobe An was first established in 1979 although somewhere down the line there must have been a rift in the force where they split (“always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice” – Yoda) because neither restaurant lists the other. They had to have been related because they have a similar menu, but the Cherry Creek location has the most expansive menu of the two.
Kobe An LoHi
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