Shabu shabu is a Japanese hot pot similar to sukiyaki, but its flavor skews more savory than sweet. Ordering shabu shabu usually entails receiving a large platter of thinly sliced meat alongside a bed of fresh vegetables that you steep in a pot of seasoned boiling water.
Upon first glance the menu doesn't seem to have the most vegetarian-friendly list items, but behold the vegetable platter! Piled high with fresh and exquisitely decorative ingredients, this dish alone is worth the trip out to Nowheresville.
More delicious details after the jump!
The intricate details of the vegetable platter make it almost heartbreaking to eat. From the mushroom starbursts right down to the flower-shaped carrot chips, the dish is beautiful.
The greatest thing about the details is that they also have utility. The carrot chips are thinly cut so that they cook faster when submerged in the boiling liquid; the knotted udon noodles make it easier for you to grasp the whole bunch with your chopsticks when you're transferring them to the pot!
Since there's no meat to help season the water of your hot pot, ask for soup base. This concentrated brownish liquid creates a flavorful and aromatic broth when added to the boiling water. If you're a fan of spicy dishes, your server can also bring out "hot drops": concentrated chili extract that you can add to the broth of your hot pot or directly to your dipping sauces. Be aware that one tiny drop goes a long way.
The platter starts with a bed of crisp lettuce and large, farm-fresh leaves of spinach. Layered over that are flower shaped carrot chips, thinly sliced kabocha squash, two small sections of corn on the cob and cubes of firm tofu draped with seasoned seaweed.
Brown starburst decorated crimini and straw-like enokitake mushrooms sit on top of a bed of udon and glass noodles as if they're sprouting from a garden.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
To eat, first season the water of your individual hot pot to your liking and place the hardest vegetables in first. Dip the cooked vegetables in your choice of ponzu or goma (sesame) sauce and eat as you go.
You'll have to eat about half of the veggies before you have space to make a soup. When you're ready for the noodles, transfer them into the seasoned water with whatever vegetables you have left and have at it straight from the pot! It's also huge, so forget about ordering an appetizer.
$14 gets you this romantic dish, a plate of vegetable gyoza and scores you big time points on a first date. You can thank us later.
Shabu Shabu Bar
1945 E. 17th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92705