A couple of weeks ago, I went to Shabu-Zen in Allston with my parents. The name Shabu-Zen comes from the Shabu-Shabu cooking style, where raw meat is cooked in a pot of broth. The idea of the restaurant is that you are served some veggies, meat, or an assortment of both, and cook it yourself in a big bowl of hot broth, which you get to pick as well.
I got the pork with the chicken broth, which came to $11. Our waiter brought out the plates and set the broth on the stove in the table. And we started cooking! But the waiter came back 10 minutes later to check on us and realized he had forgotten to turn on the stove. What he meant was that we had been dipping raw meat into cold soup.
Once the broth was bubbling and therefore hot enough to make the meat edible, everything started to get more fun and more tasty. You can tell that the meat you are served is good and high-quality. You dip it in your big bowl of broth, stir it around for about a minute, and then its ready to eat! But the broth doesn’t add much flavor, and so the meat you cook ends up being slightly bland. Soy sauce made everything better.
For an $11 meal (and all the dishes are around $10-$20), the food was simple but good. Although I was disappointed I was unable to chop my own meat, throw my food into burning oil, and then juggle knives like they do at Hibachi restaurants, using boiling broth to cook your own food is actually still pretty fun and much, much safer. The meal was good, but you’re essentially paying for the experience of Shabu-Shabu cooking.
As long as your stove is turned on, Shabu-Zen is a fun and inexpensive restaurant. But if you’re looking for something more filling, read my next review of Noodle Street! (plug)