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Reaping Good Health with Shabu Shabu
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Reaping Good Health with Shabu Shabu

Story By Sarah Pacheco Photos By Nathalie Walker
April 17 - 23, 2011

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Those with a healthy appetite for something healthful and affordable need look no further than Shabu Shabu House on Kapiolani Boulevard.

  • Shabu Shabu House owner Toshimitsu Matsuzaki holds a plate of Extra Premium Kobe-Style Washugyu Beef Shabu Shabu ($34.95).
  • House Special Set ($15.95)
  • Extra Premium Kobe-Style Washugyu Beef Shabu Shabu ($34.95)
  • Seafood Shabu Shabu Set ($21.75)
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One glance at the menu and you’ll be hooked by the immense offerings of fresh seafood, lean cuts of meat and tasty vegetables that come in each shabu shabu set.

“The House Special Set with beef and pork is the most popular — it’s a customer favorite — and the price is very, very reasonable. There’s more than enough to feed everyone,” says general manager Kenny Ikeguchi.

He’s not exaggerating. The Shabu Shabu House Special Set is a platter of thinly sliced beef and pork that looks like it could easily satisfy two or three people. And considering the total meat portions weigh in at 8 ounces (lunch, $11.95) and 12 ounces (dinner, $15.95), that estimate might not be too far off.

Another indulgent speciality is the Seafood Shabu Shabu Set ($21.75 at both lunch and dinner), a true ocean feast overflowing with shrimp, clams, squid, filleted basa and scallops.

“I believe we are the only shabu shabu restaurant serving this large of a variety of seafood in one plate,” Ikeguchi states with a grin.

However, restaurant owner Toshimitsu Matsuzaki says what Shabu Shabu House may be best known for is its Extra Premium Kobe-Style Washugyu Beef Shabu Shabu.

“Our speciality is the Kobe,” Matsuzaki says with pride. “The price is unbelievable compared to other restaurants that serve Kobe beef. And the quantity is huge.”

The secret lies in the beef, which comes from cows that are a crossbreed of the Japanese Wagyu and American Black Angus. According to Ikeguchi, this cross-breeding leads to cows that are born with the best genetics of both worlds and produce the highest quality of “supreme tasting” meat.

“This (type of) Kobe, we are the only ones serving it in Hawaii,” says Matsuzaki. “It is very sweet. If someone tries it, they understand.”

“People can tell the difference once they try it,” Ikeguchi adds. “People complain that we have ruined all other meat for them because it is so good.”

The Extra Premium Kobe-Style Washugyu Beef Shabu Shabu is available in two sets. Set A ($34.95) is a Kobe-style beef and prawn shrimp combo plate, and Set B ($34.95) is all beef. Large portions are available for $9 more.

All shabu shabu orders come with a plate of assorted vegetables and fresh tofu; udon noodles; house-made gyoza; a bowl of white or brown rice; and three bowls of Shabu Shabu House’s famed sesame seed, ponzu and ginger sauces, created by Ikeguchi himself.

On the Side

Surviving in the restaurant industry for eight years is a feat many cannot claim. But to flourish in a field where food trends go in and out of style faster than you can say “shabu shabu” takes determination, business savvy and a quality product.

So how does Shabu Shabu House do it? “(Our food is) simple, simple but healthy and delicious,” says general manager Kenny Ikeguchi of the straight-forward fare found within the Kapiolani Boulevard restaurant.

Ikeguchi and owner Toshimitsu Matsuzaki opened Hawaii’s first hot-pot house in 2003 after seeing a need for a convenient and quick-service restaurant that could serve both the single and family set.

Eight years later and despite the emergence of other shabu shabu restaurants, Shabu Shabu House remains the only serious Japanese-style shabu shabu eatery in town.

“There never was this type of restaurant before I opened (Shabu Shabu House),” Matsuzaki says. “Now, many shabu shabu restaurants have opened, but they are not Japanese-style, all Chinese-style shabu shabu.”

In Chinese-style shabu shabu, according to Matsuzaki, diners select various meats and vegetable plates from coolers and cook their food in a flavored broth. With Japanese shabu shabu, however, there is a preset menu of items that are delivered to the table, and boiling hot water is used to cook the food quickly without adding any salt or oil to the meal.

“It is a very health-conscious-type of fast-food restaurant, easy to go in, eat enough and pay cheap, and it’s very healthy,” Matsuzaki adds. “We also serve a bigger volume (of food), more than any other restaurant, but the food is healthy, so even though it is big portions, the next day your stomach is very comfortable.”

And if the enormous shabu shabu sets don’t completely satisfy your hunger, there also are extra side orders of meat — like rib-eye beef ($12.95), lamb leg ($7.95), beef tongue ($7.95) — and seafood — large shrimp ($10.95), small shrimp ($6.95), lobster balls ($5.50) and scallops ($5.50) — to be had, along with side portions of vegetables, tofu, noodles and rice.

Additional sauces and soup bases also may be ordered to add extra flavor and depth to the meal.

Shabu Shabu House

  • Where
    • 1221 Kapiolani Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 597-1655
  • Hours
    • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Monday – Sunday
  • Notes
    • Validated parking available.