Friday, December 5, 2014

Swishing the shabu shabu at Ginzasyabutsuu in Ginza, Tokyo

To the tourist who loves Japanese food, perhaps shabu shabu is not on the top five list of foods to eat.  There's ramen, tonkatsu, soba, tempura and of course sushi and sashimi  -- all of which are best eaten right at the source, i.e. anywhere in Japan.
On last week's business trip to Tokyo, I was wandering around Ginza at dinner time, trying to decide where my first "welcome back to Japan" meal would be when this well lit doorway caught my eye.

Ginzasyabutsuu is a shabu shabu restaurant that I later learned from the website Gurunavi  is famous because it invented "all-you-can-eat" shabu shabu.   In other words, shabu shabu kuidaore or eat-until-you're-ruined as they like to say in Osaka.  The restaurant is in the basement so you have to walk down a narrow staircase.

The menu is  in Japanese but there is a one-page english menu for the gaijin.  You can choose from all you can eat courses of five types of meats or a more expansive (and expensive) version that includes more varieties plus Japanese black beef and a special domestic chicken.

For the less hungry, there are sets that start at Y2,400 for two types of meat -- pork belly and sirloin.  I decided to go with the "udon" set with three types of meat plus noodles.

Nothing  starts a meal better than beer.  I ordered the medium nama beer, in this case the restaurant's beer on tap is from Kirin.

We're lucky we snagged the last few seats at the counter.  The restaurant is not that big, just a few booths in the back, all of them completely full.

 Each person at the counter has the small pot of boiling water on top of a gas burner.  The shabu shabu set includes a small dish of vegetables -- carrot slices, greens, enoki mushrooms and a tofu skin pouch filled with minced herbs.

 There are two types of sauces for the shabu shabu. There is a light ponzu sauce and Ginzasyabutsuu's special sesame sauce that is also a bit citrusy.  This creamy yet tart taste is more to my liking and is ideal for dipping the meat in. For my 3-meat set,  I chose beef tongue, pork belly and sirloin (left to right, on the plate above).

 "Shabu shabu"  is onomatopoeic.  They say it is the sound you make when you swish the meat around in the boiling water.  All I could  hear though was the grumbling of my hungry stomach.

Once you've finished the meat on your plate, the waitstaff bring a small bowl of udon noodles with a side of tanuki and chopped green onions.  The remaining broth from the shabu shabu pot is then skimmed and strained of any bits of meat and is poured on the noodles, thus creating an instantly flavourful udon bowl.

A small scoop of yuzu flavoured sherbet ended the meal and was the perfect way to cleanse the palate of any lingering beefy aftertastes.
Ginzasyabutsuu was a lucky find for my first meal on this trip to Tokyo.
I hope I can find my way back next time!

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