Ken Leighton 3:30 p.m., Feb. 15
Swish Your Own Soup
Going into the Shabu Shabu House on Convoy Street gave me a pleasant sense of cognitive disconnect. I've been meaning to visit a Japanese-style hotpot restaurant for years, but the occasion has never sprung up until just recently. The idea behind shabu shabu is to cook your own vegetables and meat in a boiling pot right at the table. In theory, I understood, but in practice I had no idea about the specifics of eating. The restaurant is organize around a horseshoe-shaped bar, with a few tables at the periphery. Every seat has access to an electric burner, on which the individual pot of broth boils.
I opted for a spicy, miso broth instead of just plain water in my hotpot, which was a good idea because the eventual soup at the end was much more flavorful. I also received a little caddy with ground garlic, onion, and chopped scallions to flavor the broth. Finally, goma (sesame) and ponzu (soy and citrus) sauces for dipping the meat and veggies in. When the girl behind the bar came and offered "hot drops" from a little bottle with a skull and crossbones on the side, I only took the single, proffered drop. That was a good idea, since the stuff was like liquid fire and even a miniscule drop gave significant heat to the otherwise spice-less sauces.
Once the broth began to boil, I got to cooking. I opted for thinly sliced, raw beef as my main ingredient, though lamb, scallops, clams, or shrimp would have been equally delicious. Dinner pricing is based on the size of the plate of meat that's ordered. Small plates start around $13 and large plates are about $17.
As I cooked, the order of operations became apparent. First, cook some vegetables because they take longer, then add some meat, then make sure to let the cooked food cool for a second because it will scorch the tongue fresh out of the pot.
The experience was really quite satisfying and I was stuffed and happy by the end. Adding the fresh noodles to the broth gave me a light soup to finish off the meal.
A large order of house sake ($5) was just right for the meal, but there was also beer, wine, and shoju cocktails to be had by more enterprising drinkers.
The restaurant does sukiyaki as well, where diners simmer their meats and vegetables in a heavier sauce, but that's a meal for a different day.
4646 Convoy Street
M-Th 11:30-2:30 & 5-10