Archive for the ‘shabu shabu’ Category

Shabu Chic

December 30, 2009

 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.