Tabu Shabu is the new restaurant concept from Jeff Chon, the force behind reviving The Alley, a Newport Beach restaurant and bar. If you’ve never had shabu, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. It is a Japanese hot pot, where you cook your own food in front of you. It’s similar to fondue, where you have thinly sliced meats and vegetables, and you cook it in a seasoned broth of your choice.
Don’t be fooled by the old school shopping center that it’s located in. It’s across the street from Pierce Street Annex on 17th Street in Costa Mesa and behind Pancakes R Us. When you walk in to this place it’s minimalistic, with clean lines, and modern touches like a long bar that seats 30 or so with low-back mixed wood bar stools.
At Tabu you select from three soup bases: kombu, a traditional seaweed broth; spicy miso or sukiyaki, which has a teriyaki-like flavor. Then you select your meat from three choices of beef: certified angus rib eye, washimi kobe short rib or prime marbled rib eye; jidori free range chicken; kurobuta pork shoulder; shrimp and scallops; salmon or even vegetarian. A plate with carrots, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, onions, spinach, bok choy, tofu and udon noodles comes with your order. There are also lots of other condiments like radishes, green onions, garlic, soy sauce and hot chili oil to season your broth however you like it. They also have something the servers jokingly call “devil’s blood”, which they use a dropper to sparingly add heat to your dipping sauces and only at your request.
The server brings your broth selection to the induction burner in front of you to bring to a boil. Then you are ready to start cooking and more importantly, start eating all of your good work. You can cook your meat or vegetables at your leisure. If you are still hungry, you can make a bowl of soup with your leftover veggies and the udon noodles dropped into your leftover broth. Your server will bring a bowl and serve it up for you.
Tabu Shabu opens to the public on April 17, 2012.