Dan and I have often talked about organising a xanga (blogging site which houses my personal blog, only open to a few (un)lucky readers) gathering but without really doing anything about it. This time, however, we decided to actually go ahead and organise one. Dan wanted to do a hot-pot style dinner and so I suggested Shabu Shabu, a unique newcomer to Melbourne’s dining scene that’s only been opened for a few months but is attracting many fobs by the droves. Several promising reviews were written about this place, including one done by Jan, so I was really looking forward to it.
Now let me explain the whole Shabu Shabu concept: It’s a hotpot restaurant where diners dunk all sorts of uncooked meats, seafood, vegies and noodles in a pot of boiling soup. You get to choose which soup base you want (chicken, miso or soy) to cook your meat in, and the sauce in which you want to swirl your meats around (traditional soy, suki (spicy) or sesame). This is also probably a good time to tell you that the name Shabu Shabu actually refers to the swish swish action that you get when you swirl your meat around in the sauce, hence my title. But what really differentiates this place from other hotpot places in the city is that the food here is rotated via a conveyor belt a la sushi train style which, I reckon, is a cool concept. Take as much as you want. All for $25. But the catch is that they only give you 1.5 hours to eat before they kick you out.
The plates aren’t really whizzing THAT fast. I was just playing around with shutter speeds, unsuccessfully I might add…
On one side of the room, there are tables where there is one pot for the table to share. In contrast, the opposite side has a bar seating arrangement where everyone sits in a row and gets their own little pot. While this arrangement is ideal for those who don’t want to share ewwy germs with everyone else on the table (and for those who aren’t so icky about germs, to sample their friends’ soups), I found it really frustrating having to sit in the middle of Bill-Shirley and Dan-Liz. Not only was the room noisy, it was very hard to hold a proper group conversation with everyone while sitting in a straight line. I could only talk to Bill and Shirley at once before going back to Dan and Liz’s conversation and then switching back and forth 10 billion times. It was really frustrating. Had we been on a table, it would’ve been better.
Overall, the food experience at Shabu Shabu wasn’t too bad but I need to add a few comments. My miso-based soup and my soy sauce (which tasted vaguely like Worcestershire sauce) had nothing wrong with them. Ditto all the little noodles, fish balls, crab balls, mushrooms, lettuce, mussels, fish fillets, beef, pork etc that came whizzing past towards us, most of which was frozen. After several rotations, I started getting a little sick of the food – it was getting a bit too repetitive. Then I noticed that Shirley had a plate filled with prawns at which point I started getting excited (I LOVE prawns), so I waited for a plate of prawns to come my way… but they never did. It didn’t help that our group was seated at the end of the line so that all the cool ingredients were gone before they even reached us. Ugh. I ended up spending the rest of the session stuffing myself silly with more fish balls and enoki mushrooms before I decided that I had enough. I guess for $25, one could do a lot worse but a bit more variety and perhaps some fresher ingredients would have been nicer.