Sunday, July 29, 2012
945 Richards Road
Shabu-Shabu is a Japanese cook- it- yourself, hot pot serving style and probably best enjoyed with a group. It’s a bit of a party thing, popular with tourists in Japan and with folks in many cities around the U.S. It’s also big with the Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese community and it’s those groups that make up the primary customer base at the new Shabu-Shabu House in Nashville.
Order a Shabu-Shabu set and they’ll bring a propane camping stove and a pot of hot broth (your choice of house or spicy). The broth seems to be what separates this from sukiyaki, although the communal cooking style is the same. You bring the broth to boiling at the table and then add your fresh ingredients, which cover the table like a portable prep station. Veggies, mushrooms, tofu and glass noodles come standard. From there you can add beef, chicken, pork and seafood, depending on your order. Drop the stuff in the pot and start cooking. The ingredients are fresh and we appreciate the egg-based broth for the Veggie Eater. A vegan would have issues here. The sets are designed for at least two and probably up to four people.
Management reports their biggest times are in the afternoons and evenings. Beware, they rent the space out for special events on Saturday nights, so no regular service. We’re there at quiet weekend lunch times, so it’s hard to judge the festivity. It’s a large space with tall ceilings. Thai and Vietnamese rock and hip-hop play on the stereo. It appears that this is a place popular with the younger set. And as it should be. Shabu-Shabu seems tailor made for group dating.
The rest of the menu is primarily Thai. Tiger Cry is tender steak and onions in a lime- fish sauce with plenty of herbs, cilantro and scallion. It’s a perfect summer beef dish- both light and spicy. Yum Woon Sen is another lime and fish sauce based dish made for light summer eating. The bean thread and ground pork has a real kick- spicy hot and that’s the standard version. I think this is one place where you could actually get some real Thai heat if you ask for it. I’m perfectly happy with mine at standard spice, although the waitress seems worried that I won’t like the heat.
Chicken egg rolls are fried crispy and decent enough in flavor. Thai fried chicken wings appear to be completely unadorned and paired with a light, sweet dipping sauce. They too are decent in quality, although not very interesting.
Veggie Eater: They bill a veggie friendly Shabu-Shabu option here and they are true to their word. On our first visit, they made a fresh veggie broth for my base and were even kind enough to ask if egg was ok (fine by me). My guess is they would accommodate leaving it out for a vegan. Not really knowing what to do, I simply started adding most of my veggies into the pot, allowing them to cook down, and then added the rest. Meat eater suggested a more fondu sort of approach, but I liked my method better. Ingredients to add to the pot included bean thread noodles, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, mushrooms (button and enoki), greens of unknown name, and tofu instead of the meat…when coupled with the jasmine rice that meat eater had with his dish it made for a lovely and filling meal (and 2 more for leftovers). Next out I tried the Pad Thai. Really, I had planned to be more adventurous, but the menu did not list what the ingredients were in the various items and I got tired of gazing at pictures trying to discern ingredients and asking meat eater to look up menu items on his smart phone (a source of contention between us as I cling strongly the dinosaur age of rarely used Tracfone technology). The Pad Thai was well cooked; noodles were not gloppy and there was a subtle spiciness to it. It included lots of carrots, peanuts, scallions, sprout, and egg with a few chunks of tofu. The iced tea appeared to be a green tea steeped on the spot and was refreshing. On our second lunch, I was presented with a jasmine bloom. The hip hop/pop music in the background makes for a fun vibe.
Meat Eater: An accommodating staff and friendly environment makes up for the quiet venue. We paid $29 with tax and tip on one visit and $32 on another visit.