Melt-in-your-mouth wa-gyu (Photo: Stacy Kurokawa)

Gourmet Dining Bar & Grill: Onwa

How do you like your beef - raw or cooked?

Melt-in-your-mouth wa-gyu (Photo: Stacy Kurokawa)
Stacy Kurokawa   - 4 min read

If you live for good meat, ask for wa-gyu which means Japanese beef. At Omwa, a barbeque dining bar at Suzumenomiya Station, the heart-stopper is tender slices of raw wa-gyu wrapped around fistfuls of sushi rice, topped with a dot of wasabi -- a big soft mouthful. I closed my eyes. Then I realized I had forgotten to dip. My next, dipped in soy sauce, was a sensory overload.

This was my first time to try raw beef. Usually, Yakiniku restaurants serve raw, chopstick-sized cuts of meat which you are to grill yourself, at your table. We usually visit a yakiniku chain restaurant, Gyu-kaku, where the prices are about half what we paid at Omwa.

Omwa is no Gyu-kaku. I arrived by bicycle Sunday evening. The waiting area between two doors was empty, however the server asked me, “do you have a reservation?” . They open at 5 and it was only 5:30. The server confirmed the age of my child. My six year old, I think, is sensible enough to sit around a hot grill.

Access is by narrow road to the north side of JR Suzumenomiya Station. I was the designated driver for the return trip, and had had to to retract the side mirrors to get down the street. Given the meat quality and prices, the three pages of drinks at the back of the menu, and its close proximity to the station, Omwa patrons may prefer to come by train and walk to the location which is only about 500 meters from the station. If you are coming from Utsunomiya Station, the train ride takes just 10 minutes.

American pop music played in the background. Framed certificates and fresh flowers are the only decoration. Omwa's tables are huge partially because the grill needs to fit in the middle, and the chairs have armrests and plenty of elbow room. Framed certificates and fresh flowers decorate the modern spacious interior. The main dining area is divided by a partition. Some diners sat with their backs to us at counter seats, overlooking the kitchen. I was told there are ten more seats in a private room. Although the windows overlook the train tracks, I didn`t hear trains pass, just the sizzling of meat.

The menu and homepage for Omwa are only in Japanese. If your Japanese reading ability is mediocre, or you are not savvy at ordering and grilling meat, make sure you go with somebody capable.

To start, the server presented us with complimentary shredded, dressed cabbage salad. She was attentive to removing dishes, and to our drinks. Draft beer is ¥500. I was given my own jug of water as requested. Our son asked for grape juice and got sparkling non-alcoholic wine, ¥400, in a long-stemmed glass. He preferred this over the juices and soft drinks on the menu. I am sure it made him feel grown-up.

We ordered a ¥400 bowl of kimchi, a large lightly-dressed mixed leaf green salad for ¥650, and chewy thin cuts of peppered beef tongue (gyutan ¥800). After that, we had even chewier, spicy marinated beef innards with texture like semi-cooked egg at first, but then like week-old chewing gum. After chewing for five minutes, I realized it was never going to break it down and it is better just to swallow.

Next, our zabuton arrived at the table. Zabuton usually indicates a square floor cushion. In this case, it meant three thin, melt-in your mouth triangle cuts of beef, from the hind quarters (¥1780). Finally, we filled up on the beef sushi, four pieces of kalbi (¥1280) and a couple of bowls of rice (small ¥200, medium ¥250). The service was prompt and courteous.

Our bill came to ¥12,000. Beware -- credit cards are not accepted. Omwa is a great place for a small party, especially if it could be billed to the company account, and/or for adventurous meat lovers who know their way around a grill.

Stacy Kurokawa

Stacy Kurokawa @stacy.kurokawa

It's with a love of adventure that I came to Japan in 2003.  I  love getting off the beaten track and getting around by bicycle.  In 2020, I qualified as a Forest Therapy Guide.  I guide in parks in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture nowadays.