Friday, May 29, 2009
Shabu Shabu, 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. Shabu Shabu translates to swish swish due to the swishing motions you instinctively make when you when cooking your items. There are many of these restaurants all over the place, and chances are you have never eaten at one, but probably have had a friend who has. Shabu is as about as simple and it gets. Meat, vegetables, rice, sauce and water. On their own plain, boring and dull, but presented Shabu Shabu style they truly become greater then the sum of their parts.
I have eaten at a 3 Shabu restaurants, and they all sucked..... Except for one, and this one happens to be one of my favorite places to eat in the world. Tucked away in the ungodly out skirts of Mission Viejo, in a shopping center that the surrounding neighborhoods have gave up on years ago, lies one of the few gems of the Orange County. The outside is nothing out of the ordinary. Just a plain sign that read SHABU SHABU (cleaver name). The inside is about the same. Nothing more exciting then.... say you would find in an office cubical. There is a large U shaped bar with pots of boiling water at each station, a few Japanese trinkets and a cork board with pictures and Christmas cards of the patrons. Once you are seated you will be promptly greeted by the owner and operator, Kumi-san. Kumi is one of those restaurateurs that I believe truly loves her work and takes great pride in her restaurant, and it shows. She slices all the meat, pours all the drinks, brings out all the veggies, and helps every newbie cooking there food. In addition to this she makes it a point to make each and every guest feel warm and welcome. It’s the kind of place where you feel like a local after only being there once. I love that. Do you know how many time you have to walk in to a tgifridays before they remember you?
Not much can be said about the food preparation, because you cook it yourself. Swish, dip, eat, repeat. The food it’s self is market fresh. The veggies are sliced daily, the beef is USDA aged angus, and the ramen noodles are imported straight from Japan. You can’t asked for much more than that. Kumi makes all her own sauces and has her own signature sauce the legendary “Hot Mama sauce”. As well they offer staples like fried rice, basic sushi, and teriyaki dishes, which I have never had, because what the point? I think there are on the menu for the kids. If you go there and order anything other that the Shabu, you might as well save your time and money are hit up a Panda Express or a Yoshinoya. The beers are ice cold and they have a wide variety of sake. Word of warning, if you try to go shot for shot with Kumi, she will beat you! You will end up drunk in a cab explaining to the driver how a little, old Japanese lady drank you under the table.
After all the swishing and the drinking and the slurping you will be pretty happy to see that the bill is not as bad as you thought. Shabu Shabu, a few drinks, and dessert will set you back about $30. On your way out Kumi will see you off with a hug, a bowl of candy, and a “Thanks for cooking”. You will leave with a full stomach and this sense that you have discovered a secret treasurer in the middle of the nowhere. A diamond in the gutter. The funny thing is that.... you did.
28715 Los Alisos Blvd
Mission Viejo, CA 92692