Shabu-Shabu: Japan’s Exquisite All-You-Can-Eat Experience

All-you-can-eat restaurants are a rather common phenomenon in the West, but it is not so common in Asia. I have been to multiple countries in Asia and I rarely see all-you-can-eat restaurants. This is also true for Japan, where all-you-can-drink is king (I am a big fan of this system and it deserves its own article). However, there is one notable exception and that is: shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu is Japan’s take on the Western all-you-can-eat concept and it exceeds it in nearly every way.

What is shabu-shabu?

Shabu-shabu is an all-you-can-eat concept where you cook your own food. The idea of shabu-shabu is that you order raw thin slices of meat that you cook in a hotpot. You order the meat via a tablet and after a few minutes a robot comes to your table and delivers the meat to your table. The general route when going to a shabu-shabu restaurant goes a bit like this: you enter, you select the course and broth and after that you stuff yourself with as much meat as possible. Some people may think that this is a bit primal, but this is really the case for most people at a shabu-shabu restaurant.There are buffets for noodles, sushi, salads, vegetables and even waffle stations! But I do have to say the the selection of meats takes the trophy.

The shabu-shabu experience:

The shabu-shabu experience for me is really simple and even cavemen-like. What I always do is starve myself for a day and then show up, select the premium course, choose my preferred broth and select the unlimited drinks menu. After that it is go-time: I always try to eat as much as possible within the timeframe. I always start with the wagyu and maybe switch to pork here and there. I also get some sushi when I need a break. It is vitally important to create a dipping sauce for your meats to enhance the flavor. Finally, it is essential to get one waffle near the end of the time frame. I don’t really like waffles that much but it is a nice change of flavor after 90 minutes of meat, sushi and beer.

The appeal of shabu-shabu:

The main appeal of shabu-shabu lies in the fact that it is all-you-can-eat meat paired with all-you-can-drink alcohol. That’s about it, nothing more and nothing less. However, the fact you order your meal via a tablet which is then delivered by a robot cat is note worthy. The robots really add to the experience of shabu-shabu, because I have never seen robot waitresses before. I also like the variety of vegetables, noodles, sauces and sushi to offer.

I highly recommend everyone to go to a shabu-shabu restaurant at least once during your stay in Japan. Just because it is such an iconic type of meal. It is also really fun to spend time with your family / friends while you’re having a good meal with some drinks. It is a bit pricey, but I think it is very worth it if you do it every so often.

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