Dean Chen and David Tjie, owners of Tokyo Pot in Stillwater, might not have great location or serve expertly cooked food, but there’s practically nowhere in the state that I’d rather eat. You could go the Melting Pot in Bricktown for a similar experience but you’ll pay three times the price, have half the fun and pay for parking. That’s no knock on the Melting Pot, it’s just an example of what a terrific time I had at Tokyo Pot.
The state’s only shabu-shabu restaurant is in Stillwater, and not even in the fashionable part. South of State Highway 51 in an area with potential but little current street traffic, they serve food that isn’t even cooked. Some say it’s a smart restaurateur who charges you to cook you own food, but David and Dean do plenty to earn your business.
They’re serving culture, history, and a little piece of themselves — dunked and swished in choice of two broths, 1. sweet like sukiyaki, the other with a little more heat. As dedicated as they are to what they do, it would be no surprise to find a pound of their own flesh among the wafer-thin meat slices that eventually arrive at the table. This is the food of their youth, and they not only serve it with pride but share it with a panache that I haven’t seen in the Oklahoma foodscape.
Shabu-shabu isn’t about precision, it’s about fun. This style has been around for 1,000 years because it’s easy and does what food does best — it brings people together. It’s impossible to sit through a meal at Tokyo Pot in silence. If you’re looking for a quiet meal in a dark corner, by all means go elsewhere. If you want to learn something about a different culture, share laughs with friends and loved ones and make at least two new friends, this is your place.
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