When people first arrive in Kobe they commonly believe they’ll eat a lot of sushi and lose a lot of weight. Neither, it turns out, happens for most. Kobe has one of the most diverse, imaginative, and deletable food cultures in the world where both washoku (和食) (Japanese Cuisine) and yōshuku (洋食) (Foreign Cuisine) have been utterly mastered. You will become spoiled by the experience of dining in Kobe so badly that you may never want to return home again because they do so many things so well.
How did this small city on the edge of an island nation become a foodie’s paradise? Immigration! When Kobe opened its ports to the world 150 years ago, a flood of international sailors, businessmen, and missionaries, together with their food cultures rushed in. Soon, bread became as much of a staple as rice and pasta as commonplace as udon. Visitors are shocked at the number of cafés serving coffee and pastries alongside green tea. Japanese, Thai, and Indian curries are also readily available in Kobe along with Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese food. Along the narrow streets and alleyways, rows and rows of restaurants (often stacked upon each other) greet you with their inviting aromas and enticing offerings. It’s truly overwhelming but we’ve pulled together a few favorites and staples that will give you a good head start at diving into Kobe Food Heaven.
Luxury Breakfast – The Oriental Hotel
You’ll never be the same. Everyone should spend their first night and first morning in Kobe at The Oriental Hotel. It’s old world charm and modern sophistication whisk you away to another time and place. The heavy aroma of its signature room fragrance signals your arrival to an exotic, new land and the breakfast buffet featuring fish and rice, cereal and fruit, and the hotel’s historic signature Japanese curry ease foreign travelers into the magical world of Kobe cuisine in a subtle yet intoxicating way.
Breakfast Set – The Sheraton Marché Rokko Island
If you find yourself on Rokko Island, Sheraton Marché’s breakfast set is the perfect way to finish off an island stroll. It includes a large salad made with fresh veggies from Awaji Island, a stiff cup of coffee, an egg for protein, and two petite fluffy pastries that won’t sink your diet. Prices below ¥1000 you could eat this for breakfast everyday!
Shopping Street Sandwich – Luke’s Lobster
When you’re shopping in Sannomiya, there’s often no time to stop, which is why Luke’s Lobster chose the perfect location right outside of Motomachi’s Daimaru. This delectable delight (conveniently located next to Starbucks) will fill you up with healthy Maine lobster and get you back to shopping in no time flat.
On the Go – Hanshin Mikage Classe Food Court
This stop has everything you could want from healthy, traditional Japanese food, to Ebisu’s American-style burgers, to Starbucks. Located on the Hanshin line, the newly renovated station mall and food court have it all (including indoor and outdoor dining).
Salad & Tea – Mariage Frères
Tea anyone? Mariage Frères boasts more types than you can count and features the best salad in Kobe. The salad niçoise is a divine interpretation of the French original. It’s so light and lovely you will want the accompanying dessert which is equally amazing. Walk around the BAL building and peruse the upscale shops to finish off what we promise will be a delightful afternoon.
Dessert and More – Patisserie Tooth Tooth
You really can’t speak of Kobe cuisine without mentioning Tooth Tooth. Known primarily for its heavenly chocolate and desserts, its easy to miss the wonderful meals available at their other, hidden locations atop the SOL building and at the edge of Sannomiya. Fresh ingredients, seasonal delights, and of course – sweets in a classic atmosphere make this a lovely place for an upscale eating adventure.
Out of the Way Lunch Set Notables – Tan Po Po (Rokko Island)
Always fresh, fast, and good, Tan Po Po is a hidden gem on Rokko Island. The ebi mayo (shrimp & mayo) burst with flavor, as do the sweet & sour pork (or chicken), and spicy tofu. Local shows are always on the terebi (TV) and you generally feel like a resident in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of this tiny bistro. Worth the train ride and especially worth the wait during the seasonal sales at the Kobe Fashion Mart.
Things You Should Try – Kobe Beef
Try Kobe Beef anywhere! You will find it in a variety of locations at many price points and prepared in many ways. It’s difficult to find any that is bad, although according to some chefs, it should never be made into hamburgers.
Go And Try Something – The MINT Kobe Building
If wandering the streets sounds more stressful than fun, wander into the MINT Kobe Building instead. There are floors and floors of wonderful food including everything from Hamburgers at J.S. Foodie to a health food smorgasbord at The Premium Buffet (pictured). There is truly something for everyone in this premium mall located conveniently at Sannomiya Station. P.S. If you don’t find anything there, the Dai’ei Building behind it has two more floors of food in its newly renovated food court! You will find something to eat at this stop.
Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive. There are far too many favorites to mention and half of the adventure in Kobe is trying new things (because you really can’t go wrong)! The best way to start is to ask a trusted friend who knows you where to start, and even better place to start is to ask someone who lives there. If those aren’t an option, print this list and try these fan faves!