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Foodie Fare
Foodie Fare

Can’t Get Enough of Shabu Shabu

By Christina O Connor Photos By Nathalie Walker
July 22, 2012

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It is lunch time on a recent week-day, and a woman sits at the counter at Shabu Shabu House enjoying her meal. “This is my favorite place,” the customer says. “I drive all the way out here from Kaneohe all the time just to eat here.”

It may seem a little extreme, but one taste of the food at Shabu Shabu House and you will understand that kind of loyalty. The Kapiolani restaurant serves up original shabu shabu cuisine, as well as other tasty options.

“Shabu Shabu House features the original Japanese style of doing shabu shabu,” restaurant supervisor Grant Murata explains. “You cook everything in water, and kelp is added to season the water. And then you take whatever you want cook and add it in the pot.”

And because everything is cooked in water — rather than a broth with other additives — shabu shabu is a healthy dining option. “It’s all very natural,” restaurant manager Kazuyo Makita says.

Popular shabu shabu dishes include the Beef Shabu Shabu Set ($11.95 for lunch and $15.95 for dinner), which Makita says is the No. 1 seller, and the Seafood Shabu Shabu Set ($21.75). (Note that the photo shows separate orders of the Beef Shabu Shabu Set and Seafood Shabu Shabu Set being cooked together in the same pot.)

For another tasty option, try the Beef Sukiyaki Set ($14.95 for lunch and $18.95 for dinner), which features cabbage, onions, mushrooms, carrots, daikon and noodles with beef. “You have the sauce first, then the vegetables, and then you cook the meat as you go along,” Murata explains.

Another dish that is quickly becoming a customer favorite is the new menu item Kobe Curry ($7.95), which is served for take-out Monday – Friday during lunch hours only. It includes Kobe beef, fresh mushrooms, carrots and daikon and is served with rice. Makita was inspired to introduce the curry —which is a personal secret recipe — to the menu after her friends kept raving about it. The dish was designed as a quick, convenient lunch for the downtown working crowd.

In addition to all of the great food, Shabu Shabu House offers a welcoming, homelike environment.

“The customers are all very nice, warm-hearted people,” Makita says. “So many of our customers are so loyal to us, and we feel like they are our family. And we just want to say thank you for always coming back.”

On the Side

Shabu Shabu House hit the Honolulu dining scene in 2004, before shabu shabu had become the popular craze it is now.

“At that time, shabu shabu was something that was offered on the menu at some Japanese restaurants,” restaurant supervisor Grant Murata says, adding that hot pot meals were becoming increasingly popular in Japan at the time. “The idea was to bring this hot pot meal to Hawaii, and I think this was one of the first places here that served shabu shabu like this.”

For those who aren’t familiar with shabu shabu, here is a breakdown of what to expect when you dine at Shabu Shabu House.

“Your server will start cooking the water for you,” Murata explains. “And then usually, you put the kelp in first.” While it is up to each individual customer, Murata explains that adding the kelp first is the traditional way to prepare shabu shabu. “The kelp is what gives it a nice flavor.”

The next step is to add the vegetables. Whether it’s onions, carrots or mushrooms, add the vegetables to the pot so that they have time to cook. “You want to put in the stuff that takes the longest to cook first,” Murata says.

“And then, the meat goes in the pot last,” Murata says.

Finally, for a little extra flavor, Shabu Shabu House offers as few different sauces that can be added as you enjoy your meal. These include ginger, sesame and ponzu sauces. Restaurant manager Kazuyo Makita explains that some customers like mixing all three together or adding sriracha sauce. “You just make your own sauce,” she says. “Whatever you like.”

Shabu Shabu House

1221 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
597.1655
Open Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Lunch, last seating 1:30 p.m.) 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Dinner, last seating 9:30 p.m.)
Sunday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Dinner, last seating 9:30 p.m.)