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Itoya offers affordable shabu shabu

Date Posted: 2009-07-30

Say the words shabu shabu, and images of the high class Japanese cuisine are coupled with visions of an expensive dining experience.

At Okinawaís Restaurant Itoya, shabu shabuís classy, but inexpensive. So is the sukiyaki, the second specialty the Okinawa City restaurant features daily except Thursdays. Itís bamboo and aged woods furniture make the atmosphere relaxing, and a visit to the private dining room provides insights into Japanís warrior past with its display of Samurai armor objects.

Itís the food, though, thatíll bring you back to Itoya time and again. Thinly sliced beef is the key to shabu shabu, but a second is the patronís hand at dipping the morsels in the boiling hot pot of broth or water, adding in vegetables and tofu to create the perfect taste. Itís a customerís delight, doing the cooking right at the table. Itoyaís tables comfortably seat 44 patrons, so thereís plenty of room, although reservations are recommended.

Back to that shabu shabu dinner, where the raw beef, tissue thin slices of quality meat is prepared and offered with traditional vegetables including Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, edible seaweed nori, onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and enokitaki mushrooms, not to mention tofu. Each customer dips and swishes his or her ingredients in the hot pot for a few seconds, then eats with special dipping sauces and rice.

Itoyaís second specialty, sukiyaki, features a raw egg as a special ingredient. The secret, says Ichiko Hino, the Itoya owner, is for the egg to provide a more mellow taste for the sukiyaki meat. The dish is too hot to eat straight from the hot pan, she says, so the raw egg can bring the sukiyaki meatís temperature to a more temperate level. Still, Hino says if the idea of a raw egg isnít appealing, then simply skip it and enjoy sukiyaki as is. Stick with the sukiyaki, which is also cooked in a pot with broth containing a mix of soy sauce, sugar and mirin.

Hinoís been introducing customers to quality shabu shabu and sukiyaki for 15 years, and is inviting newcomers to check Itoya out this weekend. The restaurant is at 1-26-1 Awase in Okinawa City. Open daily except Thursdays from 5 pm. ~ 11 p.m., Itoya offers free parking.

To visit Itoya, exit Kadena Air Base Gate 2 and drive through Goya Intersection and Past Okinawa City Police Station. Continue straight through Takahara Intersection (Highway 329), and on through the Awase Bypass road. Turn left at the third intersection after Awase Bypass, where thereís a sign pointing to the left toward Itoya. Itoya is in a building next to Awase Fishing Port.

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