Three months ago, I was finishing up a review of the new Chinese-America shabu shabu restaurants in the Sunset and Richmond. My favorite? Prime Rib Shabu House, the two-year-old restaurant opened by Luke Sung (Isa's founding chef) and Patrick Wong.
Earl G./Yelp Prime Rib Shabu House.
Four days before publication, our photographer went to the restaurant to shoot photos and found the place closed for renovation -- a target (victim?) of Craig Yates, who has been blanketing the neighborhood with ADA-related lawsuits. I had 24 hours to visit one more shabu house and rewrite half of the article.
Though the blocky wood sign outside the building makes it look like Prime Rib Shabu serves campfire steaks, the interior is more restrained, decorated in dark woods, paper lanterns, and clouds of steam. A friend and I both ordered the $25.95 all-you-can-eat meal with gingery chicken and spicy miso broths. Our waiter set a divided pot on a tabletop induction burner, pointing out pots of shacha sauce and chile oil, then brought over vegetable baskets arranged with the care of a bento box. Sprays of watercress and shinguku (aka chrysanthemum greens or tong ho) flanked cubes of tofu and bundles of tofu skin, and frilly napa cabbage leaves arced over stiff sweet-potato noodles and tangles of udon.
Then came the meat. Lean prime rib, cut an eighth of an inch thick, is Prime Rib Shabu's specialty. Swished through the broth just until the outsides turned gray, the prime rib had a clean beefiness; our waiter swore that one of his regulars simply eats it raw. The prime rib wasn't as striking, or as savory, as the half-frozen curls of spare rib ― white fat swirling the round of red meat ― and the more finely marbled lamb shoulder. The thinner meats quickly paled and shrunk in the pot, and a few seconds was all it took to melt the fat enough to give each slice a rich, intense flavor. The lamb, in particular, took to the flavors in Prime Rib Shabu's most heretical departure from the traditional shabu shabu: a bowl of soy sauce mixed with a morass of chopped cilantro, green onions, and green chiles.
"Our customers call it 'awesome sauce,'" the waiter bragged. I have to admit: It was.
Prime Rib Shabu: 308 Fifth Ave. (at Clement), 379-4678. Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Sun, Tue.-Thur.; 5:30-10:30 p.m.