STILLWATER — Tailgating at football games is only partly about food. It's mostly a social experience that's enhanced by food hot off the grill and ice-cold beer.
So what do you do if you don't have a truck, don't own a portable grill and don't want to be at the weather's mercy? If you're looking for a tailgate alternative in Orange Country, there's no better choice for hot pot cuisine than Tokyo Pot.
Tokyo Pot isn't just a great tailgate alternative for Oklahoma State University fans, it's one of the state's best-kept secrets.
The food is served "shabu-shabu" style. That means as you're seated, two burners embedded in the center of your table will be lit and two bowls of broth will begin to bubble. One broth is sukiyaki sweet, the other kicked up. After a sake bomb or two and a cold Sapporo, platters of wafer-thin raw meats arrive.
Shabu-shabu translated means "swish swish." It's the sound the thin-sliced rib eye, lamb, chicken, or pork will make as you stir it in hot broth. Other choices include red snapper, scallops and shrimp. Setups also come with enoki mushrooms, carrots, Napa cabbage and a bowl of rice.
Think fondue meets teppanyaki.
The foods are simple but tasty, but the food is elevated by the exuberance and passion of its Indonesian owners, Dean Chen and David Tjie.
They opened Tokyo Pot about two years ago. Tjie, who studied finance at Oklahoma State University, became a chef to follow in the family trade: restaurants.
"I love my father's food, and I love my grandfather's food," he said. "I thought, 'who will keep the tradition going?' So, I became a chef."
After learning the art of sushi and teppanyaki, Tjie used his OSU education to set up his own business. But he needed help, so he called his buddy Chen who was living in Temecula, Calif.
"We became friends living in California," Tjie said. "Dean didn't like the really crowded cities there, and I told him Stillwater was a good place and to come try it."
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