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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What is Shabu Shabu?

Yesterday I got together for lunch with my friend and hair stylist Armando Sarabia. He suggested we eat at a restaurant called Shabuway located right off the Saratoga South exit from HWY 280.

Shabu Shabu is a hot pot style dish where diners cook their own ingredients at the table. Menus usually contain thinly sliced meats, vegetables, noodles and tofu served with a small bowl of rice and dipping sauces. Think Mongolian BBQ meets Japanese style fondue. Kind of.

Armando had the spicy miso broth and I ordered the traditional seaweed

At Shabuway two diners can share the same hot pot heated at the table on a built-in table burner in a vey attractive "yin yang" styled pot. When the water comes to a low boil you place ingredients in your side of broth and let them cook for just a minute or two.

There was enough here for three meals!

The Vegetable Shabu Shabu cost $9.99. You receive a rather huge plate of fresh veggies like bok choy, napa cabbage, two spears of asparagus, two slices of squash, a pile of broccoli, two small carrots, a small serving of fresh udon noodles, a bowl of rice, the broth to cook in and two dipping sauces. At lunch prices range from $9.99 to $20.99. At dinner the price of most of the dishes goes up by $2 to $3 so if you're dining on a budget be sure to compare the prices between the two menus.

My lunch plate ended up costing a $1 more because I opted out of the two kinds of fresh mushrooms and tofu that come standard with the order. When I asked if it was possible I was told by the waitress that "yes" I could substitute more green veggies for the mushrooms and tofu. But she didn't tell me there would be an extra charge on our bill which was a little disappointing that I wasn't told in advance.

Using chopsticks, I would place just two or three items in the broth at a time so that nothing would get overcooked or soggy.


Armando's veggies and thinly sliced beef.

Armando is a Shubu Shabu pro.

His pot was definitely more colorful than mine!

After cooking I would pull out my veggies, drop them on my bowl of rice then dip them in the dipping sauces while eating them with small bites of rice.

My favorite was the savory soy-vinegar dipping sauce pictured here with an udon noodle right before I ate it.

The peanut sauce was good too but just a bit too sweet for my taste

The food was very fresh, tasty and may have been the healthiest lunch I've had in quite some time. I would say the price was a good value but the overly large portion could keep me from going back again, particularly because they don't allow you to share with another guest. Every person has to order a full meal.

I did bring the extra veggies home with me and am planning to make them into a stir fry for lunch today so they aren't going to waste, but I prefer to eat meals that aren't so large.

The really unusual thing about the experience was the service. Other than asking what I wanted to order at the start of the meal our waitress then proceeded to only talk to Armando the ENTIRE rest of the time we were there. It was most noticeable when she asked him, if I wanted more broth added to my side of the hot pot as in "Does she want more broth?" while she was standing right next to me! What the heck? I can't say I wasn't given good service, because the service was fine. But I, as a person, was completely ignored which, um, just felt rather awkward. Armando thought it was funny, mostly because it happened to me, not him. While the service wasn't so bad that I'll never go back, I will look around for a place that has good shabu shabu and more inclusive service. And by inclusive I mean they'll acknowledge I exist! Or maybe I'll just go alone without Armando. That should also fix the problem. LOL :)

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