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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

San Francisco-Style Shabu Shabu: Not Quite Japanese

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Is this Japanese shabu shabu or Chinese hot pot? Kind of both. - MELISSA BARNES
  • Melissa Barnes
  • Is this Japanese shabu shabu or Chinese hot pot? Kind of both.

Every time I drive around the Richmond and Sunset, I pass at least one restaurant advertising shabu shabu, the Japanese hot pot in which you swish-swish (shabu-shabu) pieces of thinly sliced meat through a hot broth so they cook in a second or two. In addition to the full-service restaurants, the specialty shabu shabu houses have grown profligate: Shabu House, Shabu Pub, Shabu Lounge, Prime Rib Shabu, G Cube Cafe.

But when I embarked on a survey of these new restaurants for this week's full-length restaurant review, the first meal I sat down for presented me with a surprise: gingery broths, spicy peanut sauce for dipping, uncommon meats such as pork and lamb. And was that Taiwanese shacha sauce in the condiment jar? Yes it was.

Most of the new shabu houses, it turns out, are owned by Chinese Americans, and the San Francisco-style shabu shabu they're serving is rife with Chinese influences. Which is sort of appropriate, since shabu shabu became popular in Japan in the 1950s -- as a Japanese interpretation of Mongolian hot pot.

My favorite of the four S.F. shabu restaurants I ate at was Prime Rib Shabu House, Luke Sung and Patrick Wong's two-year-old place on Fifth Avenue and Clement. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed for disability-access-related renovations just as the article was going to press -- the photographer we'd sent out spotted the sign -- and so this week's review covers two newer shabu restaurants mining the trend. Read it here.

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