“M” can mean any number of things. The 13th letter of the English alphabet. James Bond’s boss. A Roman numeral that represents 1000. Short for million.
But the “M” we searched for, the “M” that got us lost in the streets of Osaka for, the “M” that we promised ourselves would be our first mission in Osaka is Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M — more popularly referred to simply as M.
Why the obsession with M?
I already knew that there was a branch a few doors from Don Quijote at Dotonbori. Google maps, on street view, taught me that. Since we planned to check out Don Quijote anyway, it seemed to be the logical choice. But it was also the farthest. It was almost 10 p.m. and we hadn’t had anything to eat since the meal in the plane.
You might be thinking… Why not just get room service and plop down on the bed?
Well, because… Kat’s daughter had been to Osaka and had dinner at M. She and her husband had never heard of it before. It just so happened that they were hungry, they were on the doorstep of M and they decided to go in. Or something like that. And she told her mother that we must — MUST — simply MUST — have one meal at M. Pricey, she admitted, but worth the money.
Because we always research before we decide, we read up on M. Independently. Not knowing, in fact, that we were both researching. It was I who first found M’s website.
M does not serve Kobe beef. Matsusaka beef is what you get at M.
That might sound disappointing to Kobe beef fans who think that it is THE STANDARD. But, pay attention to this:
Raised between the Izumi and Miyagawa river in the suburban area of Matsusaka city, for several years all cattle is managed with the highest degree of quality and care. To ensure satisfaction to our customers, all cows are fed beer to create a healthy appetite, and given a body massage with a mixture of shochu. This particular treatment creates a smooth blood circulation throughout the body of our cows.
Beer! Matsusaka cows are fed beer! And then there were the photos on the website… Of course we were going to eat at M! It was imperative.
We asked for directions at the hotel and we were given a street map where the branches of M had been labeled.
We exited the hotel, started walking and promptly got lost in the labyrinth of shops, restaurants and clubs.
We stopped pedestrians to ask for directions. Everyone tried to help. The accommodating strangers whipped out their phones, opened Google maps, patiently uttered instructions supplemented by hand gestures, but the fact the we neither spoke nor understood Japanese didn’t make things easy for us.
The kindness of strangers
I forget now how many strangers we stopped to ask for directions. The last ones though were a nice young couple. More directions and we were walking again — our heads never still as we constantly scanned the neon signs overhead. The couple, behind us, was walking in the same direction. They overtook us and the girl offered to walk us all the way to the nearest M.
I was stunned, quite literally. I come from a country known for its hospitality but would I offer to do that favor to strangers? Something in me stirred. The world may have gone crazy but there are still kind people around. And you meet them under the most unexpected circumstances. These young people weren’t the only ones during our Osaka visit to show such kindness either. We would experience it again a few days later but that is another story.
We would have accepted their offer — gladly and with genuine gratitude — when, suddenly, there it was. We just walked past it — the narrow establishment with the logo and we almost missed it.
We thanked the couple again. They went their way and we retraced the few steps to the door of M. The curious thing is that the M we found wasn’t even on the map handed to us at the hotel. And it probably isn’t on Google maps either — yet. We would learn a little later that it’s a new branch that opened just two months ago. We got there just in time too because they took the last order at 11 p.m. The dinner crowd had left and we didn’t have to wait long for a table. We were soon perusing the menu and making our choices.
Finally, dinner at M
The fruits sake arrived first. Yuzu citron for me; ripe peach for Kat.
The appetizers and side dishes came.
Then, the real feast began.
I had never seen such glorious marbling of fat in beef. And all that is “lean” beef according to M’s menu.
A cube of beef fat was rubbed against the hot grill to moisten it. Then, the beef was laid out. There were small bursts of flame as some of the fat woven into the meat melted and dripped. The crackling sound it made was music to my ears.
As our waitress (a charming Indonesian girl) recommended, we ate our first piece of beef without dipping it into any of the sauces so we could savor the natural flavor of the meat. I dipped the second piece of beef in soy sauce just to taste the difference. After that, I set aside the sauces. The beef needed no dressing up. It was perfect by itself. Simply perfect.
P.S. About the garlic rice
I have to give the bowl of garlic rice a special shoutout. The bowl was heated and the rice scorched where it touched the bowl. Like good paella. And the name “garlic rice” didn’t really give it justice. There were pieces of beef in the rice, some minuscule vegetables and the aroma was simply lovely. Kat had to tell me to stop gorging on the rice and focus on the beef but it was just so good…
Then, there was ice cream. I felt full but, what the heck, I finished my share anyway.
It was the perfect first meal for our Osaka visit. And it’s a meal that I’ll remember with delicious nostalgia for the rest of my life.