I haven’t been to many hot pot restaurants and when I was younger I used to scoff at the idea that you had to cook your own food at a restaurant. I mean, what are you paying for if not someone else cooking your food for you? Nonetheless, a few years ago, I tried hot pot or shabu-shabu and loved it. It’s not only delicious, somewhat light, and filling, but it’s a lot of fun! It’s like combining a low stress activity with a meal and it’s a great destination for a date (as long as you’re adventurous). For those of you that don’t know, shabu-shabu is a Japanese meal where you get a large pot of simmering/boiling broth to cook meats and vegetables at the table. You then eat those cooked items with rice or noodles. The aptly-named Shabu in Quincy, MA opened up in 2008 and does a great job with their hot pot. I only heard about it two years after it opened. I ate there for the first time in 2011 and I’ve been going back ever since. I’ve been eating at their sister restaurant Fuji 1546 for a couple of years as well and you can read that review here.
397 Hancock Street
Quincy, MA 02171
Service and Atmosphere
The one thing everyone should know is that Shabu is an extremely small restaurant. The picture below is literally half of the restaurant. The other half has a few tables with chairs in the aisles placed along a bench the length of the restaurant. It can get pretty tight in there, especially for larger individuals like myself. On my last trip to Shabu, I reached for something in my pocket and my elbow almost completely destroyed everything this tiny server was carrying on her tray. It’s a good thing the servers are extremely polite and helpful, otherwise, my clumsy self wouldn’t stand a chance in there. They do have outdoor seating in warmer weather, which is nice, but no matter what, expect a wait on the weekends unless you’ve called ahead and made a reservation.
The first thing you might notice when you sit down at Shabu (aside from the close quarters) is a variety of playful utensils on the table or counter in front of you. These might look daunting at first, but you don’t have to use most of them unless you really want to. Sometimes they come in handy, but you can usually get away with just using chopsticks.
The next thing set on the table just after you order are the “fixings” for an incredible dipping sauce. I’m not sure what the base of the sauce is, but when your order comes out, you can mix in fresh garlic, scallions, sweet chili paste, and fresh chili peppers into it. The resulting flavor combination is fantastic. You can dip ingredients into this sauce to change up the flavor profile, which adds a whole new dimension to the meal.
Before the broth comes out, the servers bring over the fresh vegetables (cabbage, watercress, corn, potato, etc.) and rice or noodles (depending on what you chose). I prefer rice over the noodles because the rice absorbs any soup or sauce that falls into it while the noodles tend to stick together and are harder to eat. The noodles are delicious though and I know a lot of people that enjoy them over the rice.
At Shabu, you can get a variety of different foods from their large menu, but I always stick with a broth or two and a meat with veggie combo. You can get one or two broths per pot and if you’re eating with a friend then I would always recommend getting two broths just for the added variety. On this occasion, we tried the kimchi (Korean) and the pho (Vietnamese) broths. The pho broth is my personal favorite because it’s so light, but packed full of beef (there are actually bones in the broth to ratchet up the flavor), cilantro, and onion flavor (there are of course other spices in there as well like star anise, but you get the picture). The kimchi was a deep red, full of spice, and everything nice (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Both broths were delicious and offered up completely different flavors for the same meal components.
As an accompaniment to the broth, we ordered the thinly shaved chicken and pork along with a plate full of vegetables. The meat cooks in the broth in just a few minutes. The quality of the meat is also pretty excellent because none of the pieces are grizzly with fat or cartilage. Depending on the broth, the meat can take on the flavors differently. The chicken for example, tasted very bland in the pho, but absorbed some of the great hot spices of the kimchi broth. The pork was great in the kimchi, but complimented the pho very well because the pork had its own flavor that went well with the more subtle beef and herb broth.
The last thing I wanted to try just to mix things up were the meatballs. When these came out, they had a very odd shape to them. They didn’t look rolled, but instead had flat edges on them. I think the meatballs were pre-cooked and they had an oddly smooth texture that I would never associate with a meatball. I can’t quite explain their taste except that they tasted fatty, but were firm at the same time. All in all, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t especially good. I can’t say that I would ever order them again, but I was glad I got to try them.
I always enjoy my meal at Shabu. There are probably better places to have shabu-shabu or hot pot, but this restaurant is very clean, affordable, and the food tastes great. I highly recommend a visit to this little place if you’re ever in Quincy.
A joyously weird music video about Shabu Shabu that has some exceptional dance moves.