“Shabu-shabu is a favourite pastime for [the] Japanese – like an Aussie barbeque on the beach,” Hanasuki executive chef Takashi Yamamoto tells Broadsheet.
Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot in which thinly sliced meat and fresh vegetables are cooked in a special broth. The name shabu-shabu is an onomatopoeic word that comes from the sound produced when ingredients are “swished” (cooked) in the broth.
While shabu-shabu often makes an appearance in Japanese restaurants as a winter special, this is likely the first time a restaurant specialising in shabu-shabu has opened in Sydney.
This year, gift them a dinner to remember with a Broadsheet Gift Card.SHOP NOW
Yamamoto, who also runs Choji Yakiniku, a Japanese barbeque in Chatswood, speaks passionately about shabu-shabu and the concept behind Hanasuki, which opened in March in the same leafy lower north shore suburb.
“There is so much to shabu-shabu,” says Yamamoto. “It’s not just about the ingredients and the broth, but the Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) and the social interaction of sharing the meal.”
While many styles of hotpot around east Asia are served with all the ingredients already in the pot, shabu-shabu begins with the broth on its own, bubbling away on induction cooktops set into the tables.
“The idea of shabu-shabu is for you to cook at your own pace and to eat [the ingredients] at their perfect timing,” says Yamamoto.
Although there are no rules for the order in which ingredients should be cooked, Yamamoto encourages starting with the mushroom varieties to allow more umami into the broth. Unlike some other styles of hotpot, where the broth is flavourful and sometimes even spicy, the shabu-shabu broth is often lighter and more delicate. Hanasuki uses a blend of konbu (kelp), katsuo (bonito), shiitake, saba (mackerel) and iwashi (sardine), to make a simple yet umami-rich soup that will draw out the natural flavours of the added ingredients. There are dipping sauces (ponzu and sesame) and condiments such as grated daikon radish, yuzu kosho, chilli and wasabi if you want to some variation for your palate.
The shabu-shabu meat served at Hanasuki includes different cuts of premium A5 Wagyu, imported from Kagoshima and Fukuoka in Japan. The thinly sliced meat is swished in the broth for just five to six seconds for it to be cooked medium-rare to rare, so its quality and precise cut is crucial for the right texture and aroma, explains Yamamoto. Other proteins include Kurobuta pork belly and seafood. Fresh vegetables include mushroom varieties such as shiitake, king oyster, shimeji and enoki, as well as Chinese cabbage, garland chrysanthemum, shallots, watermelon radish and red radish, some of which come directly from the restaurant’s own farm.
What makes Japanese hotpot extra special is the zosui (like Japanese congee) that follows, using the leftover shabu-shabu broth. To maintain consistency, the staff will go as far as measuring the broth’s saltiness using a special saltometer, adding salt and broth accordingly for the perfect zosui. You can then choose to have a traditional zosui, where the egg is visible, or the modern zosui, where the egg is mixed in for a creamier finish. Enjoy this with house-made pickles and salted konbu.
At Hanasuki, shabu-shabu is offered in a set menu, including appetisers, vegetables and meat for the shabu-shabu and zosui. You can also add on assorted sashimi or the luxurious black lip abalone and taraba-gani (king crab).
There is a vegetarian option, too. Shiitake takes centrestage in the broth, with the likes of mochi and edamame cake replacing the meat.
Allow 1.5 to two hours for the meal, and “don’t rush”. Instead, enjoy the company of fellow guests, the omotenashi, and the fresh ingredients cooked and eaten at your own pace.
“And please give us feedback,” adds Yamamoto. “Feedback is very important for us, as it is one way we can improve.”
Hanasuki is also adding sukiyaki to its menu in the coming days, another type of hotpot, where the thinly sliced Wagyu is simmered in a sweet, flavourful broth and eaten with beaten raw egg.
Shop 1, 18–26 Anderson Street, Chatswood
(02) 8376 3099
Mon to Fri 5pm–10pm
Sat & Sun midday–10pm