Shabu-Shabu Hot Potting Around

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Inset table-top hot pot with a bow of cooked broth and a plate of vegetables and noodles at the shabu-shabu style restaurant Shabuya in Los Angeles

During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to eat at a shabu-shabu or hotpot style restaurant for the first time.  I know, what is wrong with me?  Slacking on all the tasty goodness out there.  While I’ve traveled through, or lived in, more than a dozen states, I usually stick to the cheap fast food restaurants or supermarket delis because those are well known chains and a lot of their food safety practices are (in theory) standardized from location to location.  Hotpot/shabu-shabu is something I’ve always wanted to try because…soup.  What I didn’t know when I ate there is that Shabuya is a chain with restaurants in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Milpitas, and several other locations.  The one I ate at was Shabuya Los Angeles, West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.

At first, the set up is a little intimidating if you have no idea what to do.  But the wait staff at Shabuya was friendly and helpful.  They seemed quite used to having novice diners in their care and did not make me feel uncomfortable or stupid for not knowing how to use their devices or how to go about the meal.  In Shabuya, the tables have built in sunken heating elements, like stock pot warmers/heaters, which are just the right fit for a small restaurant style stock pot to fit inside.  The temperature has three settings 1, 2, and 3, which are controlled by a knob on side of the table closet to the dinner.  From what I could see, tables were two or four people were available.  Individual tables were close enough together that if a party could not all fit on one table they could still converse together comfortably.

A selection of thinly sliced chicken, pork, and lamb meat with the tongs provided for cooking your own shabu-shabu style meal at Shabuya Los Angeles.

So how does it work?  At Shabuya, it is all you can eat.  First you pick your broth and up to four plates of meat at a time.  My son and I ordered the pork broth and the house broth.  We chose chicken, beef, lamb, and pork for our meats.  In the middle of the restaurant there is a large buffet set up for the vegetables, sauces, and other tidbits like fish, shellfish, eggs, and tofu to add to your soup pot.  The waiter brings diners their broth and meat and turns on the heating elements of the tables, then we went to the buffet and picked out everything we wanted to add to our pots.  Because the broth is already hot when brought to the table it doesn’t take long for anything to cook.

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Tongs and a ladle are provided for fixing you meal and taking the cooked goodness out of your simmering pot and putting into your bowl.  Part of me felt silly for paying to cook my own meal.  However, at a price of about $30.00 per person, I’m sure I would have paid at least that and maybe a bit more if I’d purchased all the different ingredients I was able to choose in my meal from a supermarket and made the meal from scratch myself.   My son and I had so much fun trying different combinations of flavors.  Now I’m currently looking for a hotpot for my home.  Definitely an experience I’d like to repeat again.

For anyone interested in giving shabu-shabu or hotpots a try there are some nice-looking ones available out there.  I can’t testify as to their quality or features but there are many options.  I love the look of this one with its wooden base and lid.  Another style that seemed interesting is the pot and grill combination. But one of the pots with a divider inside to make multiple compartments for cooking more than one flavor of broth at once seems like it would come closer to simulating my restaurant experience.

What are your opinions?  Have you tried shabu-shabu at home?  Got any suggestions, recommendations, or preferences you can share in the comments below?

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