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 joys 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 hotpot filled with boiling water.
I ordered the platter consisting of thinly sliced prime beef with some awesome Kurobata pork.
The shrimp looked delicious too as did the chicken. Overall,the choices run from rib eye steak for $17.99 to prime steak, progressing upwards until you get to the true Wagyu beef in the $100.00 range. Oh, I do want to try that some day! Our veggies cane first. Some sliced Napa 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 vegetables and generally made the 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 beef 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!
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.
1945 E 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705-8603