Monday, November 2, 2009

What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?

Shabu-Shabu at Shabu Zen.

What is the sound of thinly sliced beef swishing in boiling hot water? And if no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

What is Shabu-Shabu you ask? Well according to Wikepeidia:

Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ also spelled syabu-syabu) is a Japanese variant of hot pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style, where both use thinly sliced meat and vegetables, and usually served with dipping sauces.

Meshed in between the cluster f*** of restaurants in Chinatown, this hidden gem is located right in the middle of Tyler St. Upon entering, the lights are bright, the vibe is fast paced, and the smell is like no other. If you choose to go during prime time dinner hours, be prepared to wait an hour or even longer. Definitely DO NOT go if you have any hunger whatsoever. It will be the biggest mistake of your life. If you can't control this shabu craving of yours; I suggest you go during the middle of the week, early or late. Either way, there is little or no wait, and you can choose from 3 locations to be seated: A cozy booth, a seat at the communal U-shaped table in the middle of the restaurant or at the highly coveted bar (personally, my favorite place to dine at any establishment).

For a beverage: They start you off with hot green tea; but to enhance our dining experience, we chose Sapporo (premium Japanese beer) and a Red Bean Smoothie (yet another aquired taste of mine, but there are more delicious flavors to choose from). They also have a great selection of Japanese Sake, Beer and Wine.

While waiting for your food, there is a bowl of sauce that sits in front of you, with 4 little bowls housing different ingredients (garlic, chili flakes, scallions, black bean sauce). You mix your ingredients into the sauce, creating this magical mystery sauce that is salty, spicy, and delicious.

For an appetizer: On the repeat list are Seaweed salad, Kimchee, and Edamame; however, the must haves are the Salmon and Tuna Sashimi. A bargain at $4 for 4 pieces. They are fresh, melt in your mouth, to die for pieces.

For an entree: You can choose a main course or if you can't choose - go a la carte. Prices range of course depending on the quality of the protein. You can get plain beef for $10.95 or Kobe beef for $38. Unless I'm in the mood for seafood, I usually choose either the Rib eye or Short rib beef.

All courses are served with an assorted vegetable plate, a choice of Udon noodle, Vermicelli, or steamed Jasmine rice (My choice: Udon noodle), and last but not least a choice of broth (My choice: Spicy Kim-Chee broth). It's optional, but to me, it's absolutely necessary.

Once your hot pot is boiling and to temperature, you're ready to eat. Now this is where the fun begins. You throw in your vegetables, being very careful not to forget about them, because things can and will get over-cooked. Then you take your beef...

...and in less than one minute, it's ready eat. My personal preference is medium rare.

"A variety of exotic garnishes and sauces are provided with each meal for dipping the seafood, meats and vegetables, after cooking them in one of our delightful homemade broths."

16 Tyler St., Boston, MA

80 Brighton Ave., Allston, MA

Final thoughts: It most definitely satisfies the soul, on a cold brisk fall evening, but it can be enjoyed all year round. Shabu Zen is a sensational do-it-yourself treat.


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