Tocqueville had been in Tokyo, Japan 10 years prior and had experienced “shabu-shabu” at that time. Shabu-shabu is a style of Japanese cuisine where thinly sliced pieces of meat are cooked in hot broth tableside. Now, as you can imagine, this cuisine can be experienced at all different price points. Picture the high-end of experience of kobe beef cooked and served by geisha-like women. Given our amazing asado experiences several weeks prior, we weren’t looking for the high-end experience. We just wanted to experience this style of cuisine in an authentic setting. After some searching, we came upon Kurosatsuma located close to our hotel and decided to check it out.
Based on our research we thought that there would be an English speaker at the restaurant. Our waitress spoke some English, though really very little. Given some pointing at the menu and gesturing, we found out that this restaurant serves pork shabu-shabu. We settled on the pork and a carafe of saki.
The pot of broth was prepared on a hotplate on our table, and a box of vegetables and the pork was placed beside. The vegetables included what looked like iceberg lettuce pieces, some shredded onion, another more green lettuce that looked sort of like arugula, a couple mushrooms, and some bricks of white stuff that we didn’t have a clue about (more on that below). To be honest, we weren’t sure what to do. Was the lettuce to be used as wraps for the pork? After some blank stares at each other, our waitress came over to politely show us what to do.
She placed a little of all the vegetables into the broth. Ah ha! So the vegetables are to be cooked! After about a minute, she placed the vegetables in our bowls and spooned some broth on top. Yum! Veggie soup! She then cooked a couple pieces of meat for us, and we ate those with the veggie broth. Once we knew what to do, she let us handle it from there. We finished one plate of pork and ordered one more. We were pretty sure that the meat was unlimited (i.e., additional plates could be ordered at no additional cost), but given we couldn’t communicate, we weren’t sure and hoped we weren’t getting ourselves in too deep.
After the second plate of pork, we had eaten all the vegetables and only had those white bricks left. Our waitress came our rescue again and showed us that it was some type of rice pasta that turned really gooey when cooked in the broth.
A couple of carafes of saki later, we asked for the bill and held our breath. Whew! We weren’t sure what all the line items were for, but the total was just about what we expected and very reasonable for shabu-shabu in Roppongi district. Another culinary win!