When Chen enters the room, he owns it. While Tjie keeps things in order in the kitchen, Chen is the floor show. He glides from table to table spreading the good word of shabu-shabu. He's your guide, instructor, and life of the party.
This style of eating might be new to Oklahoma, but it's far from new in the Far East.
Hot pot cuisine dates to ancient China and is thought to be 1,000 years old.
Called shabu-shabu in Japan, Chen says the style of dining is as present in Japan as chop houses are in the U.S.
"We're kind of a fusion of both styles," Chen said.
Whether the restaurant is an authentic representation of the cultures it's derived from is irrelevant. This gem just south of State Highway 51 in the middle of Stillwater is a living dream. That dream came from the imagination of its owners. The dream was to build a business on a foundation of their fondest cultural, social and culinary experiences. This place is their life — yesterday and today.
The custom tables were built by Tjie.
"I still have the moldings at home," he said.
Poems about the seasons are painted in Japanese on the tabletops. A private dining area is tucked inside a hut they also built.
When Chen cajoles you into a samurai costume and demands another sake bomb be dropped, stressing over whether the football team's defense can hold up will likely drift away.
Times will be too good to place the fate of your good mood into the hands of a lot of teens and post-teens who don't know your name and never will. Chen will remember your name, Tjie will have the kitchen ready for your return.
You'll leave Tokyo Pot fully satiated, smiling and with a new Facebook friend whether the Cowboys win or lose.