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Six thousand miles away from the hills of Spanish Basque region, a team of Japanese chefs is recreating the artisanal grilling cuisine of Asador Etxebarri. Inheriting the craft of the world-famous restaurant, bb9 in Kobe offers art-like modern cuisine using delicacies from Australian black truffles and Kumamoto wagyu beef. Each dish cooked over glowing coal and paired with superb wines, the restaurant guarantees a fine gastronomic experience from start to finish.

Tucked away in a quiet alley in central Kobe, bb9 is a hidden gem that offers a piece of Asador Etxebarri’s flame-grilled cuisine in Japan. Using precise techniques and modern aesthetics, each dish takes the art of grilling to unexpected levels. Owned by sommelier chef Masakazu Nishikawa, his wine pairing is also a part of the experience.

At the heart of the restaurant’s cuisine is the fire. Fresh coal is made daily in the sturdy brick oven, custom-made to mimic the one used at the Basque restaurant. In the early years, the team went through rounds of upgrades to improve it as these ovens are uncommon in Japan. For wood, they use Japanese oak or Sawtooth oak, which are burnt for over 2 hours until they are glowing hot and ready to be transferred to the grill.

Next to the oven, they have built a grilling station with trays that move up and down above the hot charcoal. Depending on the ingredient, the chef can control the height of the trays to adjust the distance to the heat.

“These grilling trays make it possible for us to create the dishes we want,” owner Masakazu Nishikawa says. “What’s crucial is how to keep the embers glowing, and for how long.” Nishikawa is a sommelier with years of experience in the service industry. Prior to opening bb9, he was a senior sommelier for starred Alain Chapel’s restaurant in Kobe.

Working together with a chef who trained at Asador Etxebarri, the team opened NUDA in 2011, which became the foundation for bb9. Through trial and error, they went through multiple renovations to develop their own oven and grilling system. The current chef, Kazuhiro Harut, is an Osaka native with 18 years of experience in Italian and French cuisine.

“Asador is a difficult cuisine to master because the only thing you can control is the distance between the food and the heat,” Haruta says. “It’s fascinating how the results change even with a slight adjustment.”


Art-like modern cuisine

From appetizer to dessert, every dish at bb9 is cooked using the fire. The grill adds layers of smoky aroma to the finest seasonal delicacies from around the world.

The opening dish is black truffles crostini. On lightly toasted bread, a heap of shaved Australian black truffles cover over a slice of homemade butter. The fragrance of the truffles melds beautifully with the fresh butter.

Flat horse mackerel is warmed over the grill until just like warm. Served with vinegared red onions, the sweet fat of the fish melts in your mouth.

Served in an earthy lidded bowl is a large spoonful of caviar. Imported from Latvia, the salty fish eggs are slowly heated to about 50 degrees centigrade. They are smokey and rich in flavor.

Kawachi gamo duck chorizo is crisp and golden on the outside and slightly rare on the inside. The heat enhances the aroma of the dried paprika. The blackened sweet corn from Hokkaido serves a wonderful accompaniment.

A slice of Kumamoto red wagyu loin steak is cooked with a smoky crisp layer on the outside and rare sweetness on the inside. Enjoy the deep flavor of the top-ranked Japanese beef.

Cooked carefully over the flame, vanilla ice cream has a complex flavor. The sweetness and smokiness melt together on your tongue.

The high quality ingredients on bb9’s menu are sourced from various parts of the world. Within Japan, the chefs are selective in finding the best producer for each ingredient like Jersey cow milk from Okayama and baby tomatoes from Kochi. Most of the fresh seafood come through Kanehide, an established vendor from Kyoto’s Nishiki market. From abroad, black truffles come from Australia, caviar from Latvia and fresh mussels from Mont Saint-Michel.

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Masakazu Nishikawa

Born in Kobe in 1969, Masakazu Nishikawa is a man of hospitality. After graduating from high school, he began working at Kobe Portopia Hotel that also housed star chef Alain Chapel’s restaurant. When he tasted their dishes for the first time, the experience was so moving that it made him want to pursue a career in the restaurant business.

“The lobster salad and grilled chicken were shockingly delicious,” he recalls. “The maître d'hotel who was in charge of the team was also really cool and made me want to pursue this kind of work.'' He was later assigned to work directly with the Alain Chapel restaurant where he studied about wine and worked as a sommelier until he left in 2001.

A few years later, he came across a chef who had just returned from Asador Etxebarri and the two began talking about a concept for a new restaurant. The team opened NUDA in 2011, which later became bb9, and spent the next few years improving the equipment and grilling methods to perfect their menu. The restaurant was renamed bb9 in 2014.

Nishikawa met the current head chef Kazuhiro Haruta while working as a lecturer at the wine school, Academie du Vin. Sharing their passion for both food and wine, the two decided to work together at bb9.

“I want us to always be evolving,” Nishikawa says. “We should be pursuing to refine our craft and build a restaurant that makes guests happy.” He has no current plans to expand but is always keen to support younger chefs who are looking to open their own restaurants.

Wine Pairing

As an experienced sommelier, Nishikawa is proud to share his extensive wine collection. He has collected rare vintages of fine wines and champagne including Romanée-Conti, Montrachet and Spain's Viña Tondonia. Château d'Yquem is also a lovely dessert wine. He sometimes likes to surprise his guests with his pairings. For example, with caviar, most guests ask for a glass of champagne but he also offers a glass of red. The comparison is quite interesting, he says.

The wagyu beef is paired with a glass of Benjamin Romeo, a top winemaker in Spain. This is a Spanish Tempranillo vintage that Robert Parker awarded 100 points. The rich and complex bouquet brings out the flavor of the smoky steak.


bb9 omakase course
  • The price includes our booking fee of ¥8,000
  • The price includes our booking fee of ¥8,000
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Spanish, Motomachi
1F, 3-14-5, Chuo-ku, Motomachi-dori, Kobe-shi, Hyogo
Lunch: 12PM Dinner: 6PM and 7PM


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