One of the best things about dining in Japan is that restaurants are so specialized that they serve only one type of food which is done perfectly. One of the worst things about dining in Japan is that restaurants are so specialized that they serve only one type of food and so everyone has to agree to eat the same thing. On one of our first evenings in Tokyo, we decided to do just that at a traditional shabu-shabu restaurant. It took a while to convince our youngest, C, to commit to just shabu-shabu and not have tempura or tonkatsu (her favorite Japanese food).
There are two Shabusen restaurants at the Ginza Core building – one on B2 and another on the 2nd floor. Both serve the same shabu-shabu except that upstairs, there are operate tables where diners can sit together and share the shbau-shabu per table, while the basement outlet has three u-shaped counters where each seat has it’s own shabu-shabu pot so it’s good for those dining alone or those who’d rather not share their dinner.
We went to the one in the basement and sat alongside each other in the middle counter. Each place setting had a pot right in front of the seat. The menu is limited with sets including beef, pork, a combination of beef and pork, Wagyu beef, or special pork from Hokkaido. They also serve sukiyaki which is similar to shabu-shabu except that the meat, vegetables and noodles are already cooked in a sweeter and saltier broth which then takes the fun out of the full-on shabu-shabu cooking experience.
Two servers are in-charge of around 20 diners per counter. They do everything from pouring tea and serving drinks to setting the plates of thinly-sliced meat with a side portion of vegetables (Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, tofu and some bean thread noodles) and two sauces: goma and ponzu. They also check that the broth isn’t bubbling over or that the sauce bottles are still full of ponzu or goma.
We started out with a cold egg custard topped with mayonnaise, cucumber and asparagus. Soon after, the meat was served and it’s D.I.Y. cooking from there. The very thin slices of meat are dipped quickly in the light kombu-based broth then fished it out and dipped again in either the citrusy soy-sauce ponzu or the creamier sesame-mayonnaise goma alternating between slices of meat and vegetable and mouthfuls of steamed rice. You can personalize your dipping sauces by adding what you like from the trays set on the counter: spring onions, garlic and chili oil. They say that the name shabu-shabu comes from the swishing sound of the meat stirred into the bubbling broth. Once you’ve finished the meat and vegetables, the servers come around and add noodles to the now flavorful bubbling broth and serve you a small bowl of ramen to finish of your meal. Simple, satisfying and light. Just remember that if you have big appetite, you might have to order an extra portion of meat (like my son did).
〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 5 Chome−8−20 (Ginza Core Building)
Phone:+81 3 3571 1717 (B2) or +81 3 3572 3806 (2F)
Open daily, 11:30AM–2:30PM and 5:30–10PM