“It’s not a meal for impatient people,” says my companion as we await our pot of golden collagen soup.
Bijin Nabe, which literally translates to “beauty hotpot” is the name of a newly opened restaurant that serves just that. The dining place takes pride in serving jidori, the chicken version kobe beef. Raised in a private free range farm in Japan, jidori chickens are said to be meatier, more sinewy, and richer in collagen. That’s why the Japanese, and later on the Singaporeans are crazy for their Bijin Nabe. It’s delicious and healthy, and does wonders to the skin.
This beauty hotpot comes to you as a chicken stock pudding at first. It’s heated right in front of you, thus you can savor the broth’s aroma as it melts. When it reaches boiling point, the server offers a shot of the golden broth plus a piece of the chicken. Once you take a sip, you’ll realize that these guys mean business. The broth is thick and flavorful with no funny aftertaste. You’ll ask for seconds. As for the chicken, it’s as tender as can be. (We are told jidori can be eaten raw.)
If you’re already enjoying what’s going on at the table, wait till the server arrives with a big dish full of colors. These are the vegetables, tsukene (chicken meatballs), deep-fried tofu, and enoki mushrooms that will gradually — and gracefully — be added to your hotpot.
After having a bowl of nabe with all those ingredients, shrimps are then added to the soup. Finally, when the shrimps have been cooked and consumed, rice will be mixed in with the remaining broth. You now have your rice porridge to end the meal.
We imagine we’ve been eating a lot, but feel light, even refreshed when we get off our chairs. Guess that’s the effect of eating healthy and slowly. The dining experience takes at least an hour. My companion’s correct. If you’re in a hurry, don’t come here.
Bijin Nabe may be generating buzz for its anti-aging soup (if you can call it that), but that’s only the bonus for us. The beauty is really in the entire ritual, the servers knowing when to go to the table and when to leave, the way they communicate with the diners without saying a word. Come here if you care about presentation and preparation. If you’re the type who wants to relish every sip and bite, and wants to taste as many flavors in one meal, then Bijin Nabe is for you. Take-out highly discouraged.
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Bijin Nabe is located at the 2nd floor of S Maison, Conrad Manila. Visit bijinnanbe.ph and follow @BijinNabePH on Instagram and Facebook for more information.