Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shabu Zen Date Night

After walking by this place a number of times I finally got to try it out a couple weekends ago - and now I'm on an "interactive cooking" kick! Think Japanese Hibachi where they cook right in front of you - but with Shabu Shabu cooking you actually do it yourselves! I'm sure there are some people that go out to dinner so that they don't have to cook, but this is different - it's like an activity and dinner all rolled into one. Plus - since I like to cook, it only makes sense that I really enjoyed myself at this place!

2 locations - 80 Brighton Ave in Allston and on Tyler St. in Chinatown

When you walk in you'll see that every table has a stove top right at the table - then you'll have to set to work navigating the menu. Our waitress was very helpful and explained all the decisions we had to make. Essentially you choose the broth flavor and the types of things you want to cook in the broth - so many options ranging from 5 different beefs to seafood or a tofu variety plate. Lots and lots of options!
We started off by choosing the House Special Broth (the pots they bring are divided into two sections in case you want to choose two different types of broth or two different spice levels) and agreed on the Boneless Short Rib Beef as our main protein. The dishes are listed individually, but it was plenty of beef to share and I think would've been a lot for just one person. Every main entree is served with an assorted vegetable platter (on the right there) and your choice of Udon, Vermicelli or Jasmine Rice.

We also decided on an assorted tofu side (at left), as well as an order of dumplings, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the meal!
The whole cooking process definitely takes a little to get the swing of things, and we definitely each overcooked our share of beef before we realized that the broth was so hot it took just a few seconds to cook! The broth is boiling pretty constantly so it's not just this lukewarm broth sitting at your table - there are controls on the "stove stop" but we just left it where the server put it. I was also really bad with the noodles - they give you a little strainer type tool to put your noodles in so that they sit right in there in the broth, but I inevitably kept loosing mine and having to go in after them!
Before the food even came the server brought us all of the fixings to create our own dipping sauce so we could make it based on our own tastes: garlic, jalapenos, scallions, soy sauce and some other sort of asian paste. I mixed together everything ... except the jalapenos of course!
Between the sauce, the broth and all of the ingredients - so many great flavors made for a filling, different, delicious meal! I highly recommend - and we thought this would also be a fun place for a group dinner, like a birthday. Even with a little sake, the meal was also pretty affordable for a night out! The only thing we don't recommend - the weird dessert that is included with any meal (some sort of weird bean pudding that we took one bite of and didn't touch again).

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