Shabu Chic

 Ditching dirty work. It’s the reason even the most hell-bent D.I.Y. home cook wants to close his kitchen and get away from it all occasionally.  Yet restaurants  that lure customers into manual labor under the guise of interactive food experiences are packed. Korean Barbecue, fondue restaurants and take-your-own-order burger joints to name a few. Gimmicky? Yes. But they’ve got something. Say you’re in the company of elementary school aged children.  Forget the devil’s playground, idle hands are Satan’s inflatable slide with the splash pool at the bottom.  And when entertaining that personality-impaired client, busy work at the table can be a boon to both of you. Enter Shabu Shabu Bar.

Still, it’s not for everyone. Think pointy chopsticks, boiling cauldrons of broth and meat that stays raw unless you cook it yourself. But that’s the Shabu Shabu experience, and after a Kirin or two you’ll be happy to let your kids or colleagues take control of their dining destinies. I was. Wedged into a new Santa Ana strip mall, Shabu Shabu Bar is all red walls, black bar stools and the pristine glint of stainless cooking vessels that may have been autoclaved giving it the pleasing sterility of a posh  surgery suite that serves sake. There’s a stylized design aesthetic that reeks of prototype: glass wall encasing sake bottles, a thermalized photo mural of one of the owners and bar furniture that would be at home in any bottle service ultra lounge.

Cute club kid servers remind you that if you don’t like the food, it’s your own fault. Yeah, kind of. This isn’t gourmet cooking, its high quality ingredients that you assemble yourself. Start by grinding black and white sesame seeds in a ceramic mortar with a hardwood pestle to add a toasted, nutty finish to the goma sauce and squirting chili oil into the lemony ponzu sauce.  After seasoning the cooking pot with green onion, garlic, soy, and radish, a still life of fresh veggies and a platter of shaved, fat-ribboned rib eye is procured. Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork and shrimp are other options. White or brown rice is available. Blame it on The Black Eyed Peas: I never actually heard the alliterative ‘swish swish’ while laundering my meat through the boiling liquid, but my efforts were decent.  And the soup the servers concocted for me out of  the resulting broth was delicious. Just don’t make me do the dishes.

Shabu Shabu Bar 1945 E. 17th Street #108 Santa Ana, CA 92705  714.954.0332. Dinner for two, $40.00, food only. Beer and wine only.

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11 Responses to “Shabu Chic”

  1. Mr. Bill Says:

    She’s BACK!!! The place sounds like fun for the adventuresome. IMNSHO, this was your most entertaining writing thus far. “Satan’s inflatable slide…” – LOL, literally. Thanks for adding the price info.

  2. kate Says:

    wagyu, wagme — wag everybody! kel let’s go next time i’m down – my treat.

  3. Laura Says:

    Sounds YUM-O…Galley Gal!

  4. Suzanne Says:

    Shabu Shabu in Fullerton has been a family favorite but it was a bit of a drive. I’m so excited to learn there is a Shabu Shabu in our hood. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Kerry Says:

    nice way to kick off the new year (and my morning!) – great article GG!

  6. Ruth Says:

    Sounds like a fun and delicious way to eat healthy! Great article and photos. No mention of dairy ingredients – a boon for the lactose-intolerant customer. Thanks.

  7. Unca Kenny Says:

    Sounds really good, and WARM! I’ve always wanted to try a cook-it-yourself place. Unfortunately the drive would be a bit much from here in flyover land, but if I’m ever in the neighborhood I’ll know where to go! Happy New Year to our left-coast friends!

  8. Ewa Fallo Says:

    hey blogger your writing reminds me of this health article guy from the newyorker

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