Dining Out: Shabu

One of Sacramento’s newest eateries is Shabu, a Japanese fondue-style restaurant at the corner on 16th and R Streets. Shabu opened just a couple of weeks before Christmas, following a short soft opening as they refined their menu and introduced the concept to customers.

For those familiar with The Melting Pot, Shabu is similar in its style of food preparation for the main menu items, with guests cooking their own food in bowls of boiling broth at the table. But it differs in a few ways, not least of which is the price which is a relative bargain by comparison. Individual fondue meals cost approximately $15 (varying based on the exact contents) and consist of meat or seafood, along with a crowded plate of fresh vegetables (crisp asian cabbage, multiple varieties of mushroom, carrots, tofu, and udon noodles), and a small dessert to follow. A meal for two with double helpings of everything is $27 and generously proportioned. Unlike The Melting Pot, which has chunks of meat to skewer and boil, Shabu provides thinly sliced meats that are quick and easy to cook and this would be a neat experience for a child who is old enough to be careful around hot liquids.

After the initial opening period, the owner also expanded the menu to include pre-prepared dishes such as curries and assorted udon noodle bowls, to appeal to a lunch crowd more pressed for time, and starting at a noteworthy $5. The food is similar to the fondue meals, with fresh ingredients, and differs only in that the work has been done for you.

If there’s a theoretical flaw in the approach, it’s the same one seen at The Melting Pot in that there’s a risk that everything might taste similar having passed through one of the four available, flavored broths. But the flavors here are more subtle, and there’s also a worthwhile and related tip to be had: Whereas the small tables for two involve sharing a single bowl and flavor of broth, seats at the counter are close enough to remain sociable for two to three guests and afford the luxury of individual broth choices as each seat has its own cooking station. Thus one can eat with one or two friends and drop ingredients into more than one flavor of broth, both for experimentation and variety in tastes. Note also that the flavors become stronger as time passes and the broths boil, losing water to evaporation.

My favorite so far is the shoyu broth, a sweet and soy sauce-like blend, combined with the kobe beef. Other broths include chicken and both regular and spicy miso. Condiments and dipping sauces, including chopped ginger and radish, and a sesame paste, are also provided as part of the meal, with the sesame complimenting the meat especially well. The pricing of the pre-made noodle bowls is hard to beat if you’re in one of the nearby office buildings – which is the point of course, to lure in the lunch crowd who might then come back for a more social dinner with friends and multiple pots of broth. Either way, it’s worth a visit.

1730 16th Street
Mon-Thu 11 am-2 pm, 5 pm-10 pm
Fri 11am-2 pm, 5 pm-midnight
Sat 5 pm-midnight
Sun 5 pm-10 pm

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