It’s been nearly three years since my trip to Japan, and I finally found and sampled shabu shabu in Cleveland! In case you’re not familiar, shabu shabu is a Japanese version of hot pot and translates to “swish swish” from the sound of the razor-thin meat and veggies you stir briefly in the pot.
In late December, my Japan trip companion, Gina, and I went to Ginko in Tremont, one of Dante Boccuzzi’s newest restaurants. It’s actually housed below Dante (love that place). In addition to my excitement for a shabu shabu reunion, from what I had heard from friends’ reviews, I couldn’t wait to try the restaurant. I’ve loved every encounter with Dante’s restaurants, and I really like the chef. (During the Taste of Tremont this summer, I happily chatted with him about Ginko’s upcoming opening.)
Ginko’s space is cozy with a fun circular sushi bar, very similar to the restaurant Gina and I visited in Tokyo where we first tried shabu shabu. There are two tables for shabu-shabu cooking – the top center of the table lifts up to reveal an electric burner to heat the broth, meat and veggies. Shabu shabu is so fun because it’s interactive. You dunk your meat and veggies in the broth for 10 seconds to two minutes and then dip them in two types of sauces. While we were eating, I could almost hear the "arigatou gozaimasu" from all the servers we encountered in Japan. :)
While our meal was delish, unfortunately, I think we visited on an off-night for service. The two shabu-shabu tables are the only seating for which Ginko accepts reservations, so I made sure to request a table more than a month before our visit. However, when we arrived, the hostess had no record of our reservation and was rather combative about it. Instead of apologizing, she said we could have a table, but she needed it back by 8. We also had a snafu with our server, but she did apologize and take a sushi roll off of our bill.
Based on advice from Chef’s Widow about how to handle a less thanstellar restaurant experience, I emailed the chef that night to let him know about our experience, but I never heard back from him.
Regarding the sushi and shabu shabu, they were great! There are two beef options for shabu shabu: Angus for $25 or Kobe for $50. We both went with Angus and weren’t disappointed. Since I’m pregs (SURPRISE!), we stuck to veggie sushi rolls: avocado/cucumber. Mmmm!
The shabu shabu is definitely worth trying, but make sure to make a reservation before you go because of the longer dining experience. When you call, specifically request a shabu-shabu table.