Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner

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EdSails
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2011/03/01 16:13:22 (permalink)

Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner

  Interactive. It is a word that has become very common these days. One of the best uses of it is in the phrase, “interactive dining experience”. These days, good food is only part of the experience. Service, certainly. But the majority of diners these days are looking for a fun experience. Something not just served to eat, but a dining experience where you participate in the prep of your meal, as well as sharing and comparing. One of the best examples of this is shabu shabu. It is a Japanese expression that means “swish swish”, describing the way you actually cook your meal. It’s fun for two, and much more fun for four. And as at a sushi bar, there are regular conversations about what the person next to you is having, the sauce they like, the sake……..and they might be with someone you’ve never met.
Southern California has several of them, concentrated mainly in Gardena, Little Tokyo and Orange County. I've been to several and they each offer a slightly different experience. For the ultimate experience, however, I keep going back to Shabu Shabu Bar in Tustin. Located in a large strip mall, the place catches your eye as you drive up.
 
It is good to show up early, because even with two huge bars inside, there is still usually a wait at dinner hour. With that comes a warning-----this is not a fast meal. It’s a time to have fun, savor good food, visit with friends, try some new things and laugh with everyone. This is an exceedingly popular place, and with good reason. There is great food, a lively crowd and lots of excitement in the air.
We showed up around 5:30 on Friday evening. We were promptly greeted and led to our friends who had already arrived. This was a chance to teach some newbies of the hoys of shabu shabu. They had already ordered their sake. Shabu Shabu Bar has a whole sake book, from ten dollars for a carafe of cold sake up to $145.00 for the super-premiums. Cries of “Kampai” (cheers) and other toasts and we were on our way.
 
When you sit down, you notice several things. Two dry bowls, one empty and the other with black and while sesame seeds and a pestle so you can grind them as finely as you like (I’m a texture kinda guy and just give them enough grinding to release the oils in the seed). Right in front of you is also a hot pot filled with boiling water.

Your shabu shabu chef fills the empty bowl with ponzu, a lemon and soy based sauce. The sesame bowl gets their house-made shaubu shabu sauce, a thick rich sesame paste and soy dipping sauce that the blending with the seeds makes your own. But wait! You can add to either sauce some extremely hot Japanese pepper drops. A more mild shaken condiment with Japanese and shisito peppers mixed with ginger and seaweed. And each pair of seats has between then a little condiment dish filled with scallions and crushed garlic, ready to bring it the sauces up to your taste. This is definitely the land of “Have it your way".

We proceeded to order some appetizers. Perfectly fried gyoza dumplings came first with a nice dipping sauce.
 
We also ordered a large steamed edamame, the soybeans not only dusted with the usual salt but slso some hot chili powder that definitely took it to the next level. They went great with the two orders of sake that we shared. As opposed to sushi bars, most of the sake here is ice cold. It’s very refreshing and very sippable.

As with many places like this, it’s a golden opportunity to try different things.
I ordered the platter consisting of thinly sliced prime beef with some awesome Kurobata pork.
 
Two of my companions ordered the beef and shrimp combo, with the rib eye beef and gorgeous fresh shrimp.
 
The other one ordered the chicken platter. 

Mind you, these are not cooked yet. You will be the cook. My prime beef had some amazing marbling in it.

The shrimp looked delicious too as did the chicken. Overall,the choices run from ribeye steak for $17.99 to prime steak, progressing upwards until you get to the true Wagyu beef for $145.00. Oh, I do want to try that ome day!
Our veggies cane first. Some sliced Nappa Cabbage, carrot, onion, spinach, tofu with a different type of Japanese seaweed on it and even some carrot. There was a gorgeous spiral-cut mushroom cap and decoratively sliced scallion. Also on the platter were fresh udon noodles, not to be touched until the end.

The harder veggies such as carrot and some of the cabbage pieces went in first. After a few minutes in the “Jacuzzi” some of the cabbage pieces could come out, ready to be dipped in one of the two cool sauces depending on your tastes. I enjoy interchanging them. There was also a choice of white or brown rice with the meal. I’ve seen shabu bars where you are pretty much left on your own, but here the shabu shabu chefs make sure that you know how to do it. They help you with the sauces, suggest which sauces go with which meat and vegetablesnand generally made th novices in our party feel comfortable as they learned how to “shabu shabu”.

The meat platters showed up after we had started the veggies. This is really where “swish swish” comes. In. You don’t want to overcook the beef, fish, chicken or shrimp. You take a piece, swish it in the broth, and when it’s done to your liking, into a sauce and then your mouth.
 
 
 This is where it really gets fun, trying your neighbor’s shrimp or giving a piece of pork to someone you don’t know.

You can make your sauce spicy, garlicky or plain. It’s your choice! Just keep dipping, swishing and eating. Eventually you’ll only have the noodles left.

Well, you’re sitting back, pleasantly stuffed. No room in the belly. And then the shabu shabu chef asks if you are ready for the soup!

This is where the chef again shows their expertise. They take your noodles and cook them in what has become a rich broth from your meat and veggies. Some spices and special sauces are added. Soon, you are presented with a bowl with a delicious udon soup. Your mind tells you that you are too full for it, but as soon as you take the first sip, all is forgotten.

Every bit of soup disappears, seasoned to perfection.

Your shabu shabu experience is over. At least until the next time!
As we laughed, and walked towards to front door, we wove our way through a large crowd , waiting on a rainy night to get in. It was a perfect evening for shabu shabu.

And when you have that craving, there is no finer place than the Shabu Shabu Bar in Tustin.
 
 
Shabu Shabu Bar
 
1945 E 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705-8603
 
(714) 954-0332
 
www.shabushabubar.com
#1

19 Replies Related Threads

    Sundancer7
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 16:29:44 (permalink)
    Ed Sails:  Great write, pictures, colors and the food looks excellent.  Knoxville will get one of those in about ten years or longer.
     
    Sounds like a great experience.
     
    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #2
    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 16:46:13 (permalink)
    Paul,
    You already do!
     
    http://www.metropulse.com...naba-japanese-cuisine/
     
    I hope to see a writeup on it from you soon!
    Ed
    #3
    Sundancer7
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 17:10:46 (permalink)
    EdSails

    Paul,
    You already do!

    http://www.metropulse.com...naba-japanese-cuisine/

    I hope to see a writeup on it from you soon!
    Ed

     
     
    Thanks for checking it out.  I had no idea?  I will check it out very soon.
     
    You did a beautiful post and I cannot do that well but I will let you know.
     
    Paul E. smith
    Knoxville, TN

    #4
    californyguy
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 18:57:18 (permalink)
    sounds great &what a great report!one or two have opned here , but I could not quite grasp what it was all about- heard it described as japanese fondu but seeing in ths report was so much better- now its on my list for sure!!
    #5
    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 20:23:40 (permalink)
    I think some tend to call it "Japanese Fondue" since both are dipped in something, but the similarity stops there. It's got a lot more variety than fondue and the capper is drinking the resulting soup--something you don't do since fondue tends to be dipped in chocolate or boiling oil.
    #6
    BT
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/01 23:50:43 (permalink)
    EdSails

    Southern California has several of them, concentrated mainly in Gardena, Little Tokyo and Orange County. 

     
    Would you believe 127 in San Francisco?
     
    http://www.yelp.com/searc...oc=San+Francisco%2C+CA
     
    I'm not sure I do either, but I knew there'd be several in the Nihonmachi Mall in Japantown.  You can pretty well count on finding anything Japanese (not just food) there.  I go there often for ramen:  http://en.wikipedia.org/w...pantown,_San_Francisco
     
    I was a regular devotee of shabu shabu during the 15 months I lived in Japan courtesy of Uncle Sam.
    post edited by BT - 2011/03/01 23:54:30
    #7
    Georgieporgie
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 11:44:51 (permalink)
    Wow! Thanks for sharing! I have never heard of this kind of eating experience, very cool!
    #8
    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 12:39:10 (permalink)
    BT

    EdSails

    Southern California has several of them, concentrated mainly in Gardena, Little Tokyo and Orange County. 


    Would you believe 127 in San Francisco?

    http://www.yelp.com/searc...oc=San+Francisco%2C+CA

    I'm not sure I do either, but I knew there'd be several in the Nihonmachi Mall in Japantown.  You can pretty well count on finding anything Japanese (not just food) there.  I go there often for ramen:  http://en.wikipedia.org/w...pantown,_San_Francisco

    I was a regular devotee of shabu shabu during the 15 months I lived in Japan courtesy of Uncle Sam.

     
    Actually, I do. The many times I've been to Japantown Center, I've seen shabu shabu places in and around there. (BTW, is Nihonmachi Mall what was called the Japantown Center). I think it's a perfect meal for SF. 
    I still remember going to a tea ceremony there and then to the little tea store upstairs. I bought an outrageously expensive tea plus the teacups, whisk and "spoon". For a year after that I would enjoy my tea and remember the several days I spent around the mall area.
    #9
    joerogo
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 12:42:06 (permalink)
    EdSails, Thanks for the info.  Never heard of such a thing.  Now I have to go searching on the east coast.

     
    #10
    Foodbme
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 12:49:30 (permalink)
    I've been looking for a Shabu Shabu place in PHX but haven't been able to locate one. I used Urbanspoon and found a Japanese Foudue place, but it's closed. Anyone know of one in the Valley of the Sun?
    #11
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 13:00:51 (permalink)
    I agree with everybody else about the food, but the neatest thing to me is that sake carafe!
     
    Brad
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    bartl
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 15:34:29 (permalink)
    OK, I've known about this cuisine for decades, but I've always seen it called a "Mongolian Hot Pot". On the other hand, the Japanese are famous (much like the French) for taking cuisine from other nations and turning it into their own.
     
    Bart
    #13
    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 17:44:39 (permalink)
    The vessel itself is called a Mongolian Hot Pot and yes indeed, it is used in several countries. The interesting thing is (and something I had never realized until you mentioned it) that they use it there. At the Thai place I go to it they actually put lit coals at the base of the central, chiminey area for their soups. Usually at most shabu places I've been to they use a wok-type vessel for the cooking.
    #14
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/02 18:13:59 (permalink)
    Ed,
     
    One of the things I missed when you weren't posting for a while was your vast knowledge of So-Cal Japanese Restaurants.
     
    Unfortunately Shabu Shabu was one of many things I didn't have a chance to try during my last visit 2 years ago.
     
    Have you ever been to California Roll Factory?- what are your thoughts on those "wacky/crazy rolls" which by the way I've yet to find locally (or even up in Boston or in NYC)
    #15
    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/03 16:12:40 (permalink)
    Dale,
    I'm more of a purist. I prefer the traditional style to to wacky rolls. One of my favorite places is an Edo-style sushi bar, where a sign states that they DO NOT serve California rolls and that if an order comes with a sauce it IS NOT to be dipped in soy sauce. Rolls are a big thing here, though. People like the flash and strange combinations. I guess it's the old "give the customers what they want" and typical American customers want spicy rolls topped with four kinds of fish and avocado, some filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, or anything filled with deep-fried stuff. 
    And Guy Fieri took and created sushi rolls out of things like pulled pork. You find that more and more common in restaurants in this area that are not sushi bars but will put some sushi on the menu as an appetizer. Obviously these things are popular out here in most areas, but you still find the occasional sushi bar here that takes the more traditional approach. I find that those tend to also have better sauces more judiciously used, as well as the REAL wasabi on occasion. And that is a real treat!
    No, I've not been to the California Roll Factory. Don't think I would try it either. I have several places I really like, and a key to getting good sushi is a place where they know you. That's when the special goodies come out and an occasional dish made especially for you by your sushi chef. Also, sometimes they will even "gift" you with a surprise dish. 
    So when are you coming out next? I'll start lining up places now!
    Ed
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    wanderingjew
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/03 20:55:33 (permalink)
    EdSails

    Dale,
    I'm more of a purist. I prefer the traditional style to to wacky rolls. One of my favorite places is an Edo-style sushi bar, where a sign states that they DO NOT serve California rolls and that if an order comes with a sauce it IS NOT to be dipped in soy sauce. Rolls are a big thing here, though. People like the flash and strange combinations. I guess it's the old "give the customers what they want" and typical American customers want spicy rolls topped with four kinds of fish and avocado, some filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, or anything filled with deep-fried stuff. 
    And Guy Fieri took and created sushi rolls out of things like pulled pork. You find that more and more common in restaurants in this area that are not sushi bars but will put some sushi on the menu as an appetizer. Obviously these things are popular out here in most areas, but you still find the occasional sushi bar here that takes the more traditional approach. I find that those tend to also have better sauces more judiciously used, as well as the REAL wasabi on occasion. And that is a real treat!
    No, I've not been to the California Roll Factory. Don't think I would try it either. I have several places I really like, and a key to getting good sushi is a place where they know you. That's when the special goodies come out and an occasional dish made especially for you by your sushi chef. Also, sometimes they will even "gift" you with a surprise dish. 
    So when are you coming out next? I'll start lining up places now!
    Ed

     
    Ed, I understand your preference for the "traditional" . When I was in Southern California, I was trying to focus more on the locally unique wacky rolls versus the traditional which can be found here even in Lil Rhody.
     
    I'll be honest, I have no plans to return to Southern Cal in the near or distant future.  That doesn't mean I'll never return (my motto is "never say never") I just have no idea when/if I'll be back. I've already had to forgo the recent trip to Raleigh and another potential trip that was in the works to Tucson/Phoenix for personal reasons. My travel this year will likely be limited, next year I hope to make it to New Orleans/Austin especially if the glee club considers a return visit to Mobile, and later on in the year  to Miami to visit the new ballpark as well as side trips to Charlotte and perhaps Atlanta. After next year my domestic travel will be very limited. with a focus on international travel- not necessarily a focus on international Roadfood although I'm sure it will be an equal sum of several parts of the other many, many aspects that I want to get out of international travel but it won't be the strong focus like it has been domestically. 
    post edited by wanderingjew - 2011/03/04 08:01:23
    #17
    BT
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/03 21:49:24 (permalink)
    EdSails
     is Nihonmachi Mall what was called the Japantown Center

     
    Yes. Most non-Japanese probably call it Japan Center.   But I often see it referred to in anything written about it as Nihonmachi Mall ("Nihonmachi" apparently means something like Japantown).  The owner is a company in Japan and I'm not sure what they call it.
    #18
    BT
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/03 21:55:53 (permalink)
    EdSails
    Rolls are a big thing here, though. People like the flash and strange combinations. I guess it's the old "give the customers what they want" and typical American customers want spicy rolls topped with four kinds of fish and avocado, some filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, or anything filled with deep-fried stuff.  
    And Guy Fieri took and created sushi rolls out of things like pulled pork. You find that more and more common in restaurants in this area that are not sushi bars but wi

     
    I'm not really a fan of raw seafood but I like rice and I like vegetarian sushi.  My test is oshinko (pickled daikon radish).  If I get a puzzled look when I ask for oshinko maki, I leave.
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    EdSails
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    Re:Shabu Shabu----Delicious and Fun Japanese Style Dinner 2011/03/04 16:20:29 (permalink)
    BT,
    Thanks for the clarification. 
    Dale,
    Well, maybe I'll make it to Mobile----I'm due for another trip to Fairhope and Mobile's just a half hour away. Ya never know!
    #20
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