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FINDS : Sticker Shock

August 24, 1995|CHARLES PERRY

Beef at $129. No, not $1.29; one hundred twenty-nine dollars a pound.

Only one kind of meat could be that expensive, the famous beef from Kobe, Japan, where the cattle are encouraged to be as lazy and tranquil as possible in order to produce spectacularly rich and tender meat. They're fed a mash with beer in it and regularly groomed with a heavy brush to improve their circulation, which is probably the origin of the story that Kobe cattle are massaged.

The meat is so heavily marbled it's practically pink--you'd think it was fat marbled with lean, rather than the other way around. Fry it very quickly (take our word, it loses a lot if it's cooked beyond medium rare) and it comes out impossibly rich and tender with a mouth-feel more like Spam than beefsteak. You could just about chew it without teeth.

Yes, it's startlingly expensive, but it's so rich that just a little dab will do you. Even a tiny square of it on a toothpick, right out of the pan, makes a memorable appetizer. And remember, the price includes bragging rights. How many people do you know who have had a bite of Kobe?

Until now, the beef was extremely difficult to find. But it is available on a trial basis at Bristol Farms Markets in South Pasadena and Palos Verdes.

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