How else but in shabu-shabu-style dining can you enjoy a hot, nourishing, relatively healthful cook-it-yourself meal, and get a steam facial all at once?
If you’re as much of a fan as I am of this traditional Japanese dish of thinly sliced meats and veggies cooked tableside in a pot of bubbling broth, you’ll be glad to hear that Shabuway, which already boasts three locations in the Bay Area, will be adding three more this spring.
Tokyo-raised Eiichi Mochizuki opened his first Shabuway in San Mateo in 2004. That was followed by another in downtown Mountain View in 2006, which has proved so popular there’s sometimes an hour wait to get in. Last year, one also opened in the parking lot of Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose, which is the one I recently dined at as a guest of the restaurant.
The next ones to open will be in San Francisco’s Richmond District, Union City, and in Santa Clara on El Camino Real near the ever-popular Korean fried-chicken joint, 99 Chicken.
With its glossy red interior, the San Jose locale features a large U-shaped counter in the center, where lone diners or couples can sit. Behind it, wait staff man a slicer to shave Kobe-style beef slices paper thin.
We sat at one of the tables that had an induction burner built into its center.
On the table are condiment jars of chopped fresh green onion, garlic, and a chili paste made with grated daikon. Immediately after you’re seated, you’re also brought dipping bowls of housemade creamy sesame sauce and sweet-salty-citrusy ponzu sauce.
First, choose your broth: either a light seaweed one or spicy miso. If you sit at a table, you can enjoy half of each type of broth with a nifty yin-yang-like divider in your pot, which is what we opted to try.
While Shabuway offers items like shrimp pot stickers (not made in-house), why go to a shabu-shabu restaurant if you’re not going to indulge in some shabu-style cooking, right?
At Shabuway, it’s all about the beef and lamb. The restaurant offers aged Prime Angus, American Kobe beef, Premium Kobe beef, American Kobe Lean beef, and lamb in small, medium and large plates, ranging in price from $12.99 to $20.99. You can even get extra meat on any order for an additional cost.
My husband went with the “Half Kobe Beef & Half Lamb” ($14.99), while I ordered the “Vegetable Shabu Shabu” ($11.99).
It makes for an ideal way to dine for two people because you get more than enough to share. The huge veggie plate was brimming with Napa cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, thin slices of kabocha, carrots, enoki mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms, cubes of tofu, and a small tangle of udon noodles.
Using chopsticks or a handled strainer at the table, add your veggies to the broth to cook until tender. Fish them out and dunk them into your sauces and condiments to enjoy with bowls of steamed rice.
The slices of meat are so thin that they take merely seconds to cook. Mochizuki built a warehouse to age the meats for up to four weeks. The Kobe beef is extremely marbled. And the lamb so tender and flavorful.
Your spicy miso broth may wind up quite fiery as it continues to cook down through the meal. But a waiter will be only too happy to add more broth to your pot to tone it down, if need be.
Because shabu-shabu is interactive, it’s a fun, convivial way to dine. With all the steam rising from the table, it’s also a great salve for a head cold. Yet it’s so satisfying, you’ll never need an excuse to enjoy it.
More to Check Out in the Mitsuwa Marketplace Lot: The Most Unusual Sandwiches Ever — at Clover Bakery