California Shabu-Shabu

"Shabu-Shabu" means "Swish-Swish"
California Shabu-Shabu 
930 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Type: Restaurant
Category: Lunch, Happy Hour, Dinner
Company: Everyone, especially those who like to play with their food
Cost: $15.5-$51.5/person
OTC Tip: House motto is "Get drunk, get full, leave happy"

Review: First, a quick lesson. "Swish-swish-swoosh-swoosh" - that is how you Shabu-Shabu, literally. The quicker sibling of Korean BBQ (the self-cook kind), Shabu-Shabu is the same concept but focused around an individual pot of piping broth.

Don't be daunted. You can use forks or chopsticks, and while you will need to start your meal staring at ribbons of raw meat, the surrounding complimentary dishes will dominate with such exciting distractions that  you'll forget you're playing 30-second chef with each bite.

                                  Shabu-Shabu in action: Owner Ash, Myself, and Manager Anthony

OTC Tip: Who doesn't like Happy Hour? At Cal Shabu you can have $4 beer and $3 hot/mixed/cold sake from 11:30am-2pm (everyday!) and 5pm-7:30pm (Monday-Thursday).

If you are like me and have zero patience, you'll like the pace of Cal-Shabu. Thirty seconds after you stake your seat they'll turn on your burner and hand you a menu. As you consider your taste and strength of appetite (select from chicken, three cuts of beef, salmon, pork, shrimp, vegetarian, scallops, mussels in 6 different sizes: regular to donkey kong) you'll receive a customizable plate of vegetables (tofu, cabbage, sprouts, onion, broccoli...) and two customizable dipping sauces (ponzu and sesame) as well as a bowl of rice.

OTC Tip: Can't decide what kind of meat you want? Order a combo and pick two. If you can't decide what cut of beef, go for Prime. It's perfectly marbled and it's what the owners and staff eat!

Nobody leaves hungry from Cal-Shabu
As expected, your platter of uncooked meat arrives fast. Luckily, cooking each piece happens even faster - simply pick up a piece, dunk it around in the pot of broth, dip it in a sauce, dab it on the rice, and eat. At some point you'll want to toss the the veggies in to the broth so they have time to soften and take on flavor.

Once you've successfully bulldozed through your main meal - wait! you are not done yet. Let the noodles slide in to the broth and let 'em swish around a bit. Squirt in some flavor from the stable of multiple squeeze bottles at your dispozle, pull the bowl containing a soup base under your chin, use the tongs and soup laddle to transfer the contents of the pot to the bowl, and pick up your soup spoon for round two! It's ok if you're full, grab a to-go container and enjoy it tomorrow. Personally, I think soup tastes better the next day, anyway.

Since few can say no to dessert, if you can seal the meal with an order of the black sesame ice cream. Now THAT is how you shabu-shabu.

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