Shabu-Tatsu – Why is Shabu Shabu So Hard to Find in NY?
Shabu shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish where you take raw meat, vegetables and noodles and then cook them in a hot pot filled with boiling water and seasonings and then dip the meats and vegetables in various sauces. I’ve always wondered why shabu shabu wasn’t more popular in the city, it’s healthy, tastes great and none of the ingredients are particularly expensive unless you’re using really good beef.
In California, where I’m from, it’s pretty easy to find good and cheap shabu shabu places, but in NY I can only name a few. So when I was craving shabu shabu, I had to look up where to go. I finally decided on Shabu Tatsu since it was conveniently located and also garnered good reviews online. I’d been here once a long time ago, but I really don’t remember too much about it, so this was basically like going for the first time. To show how scarce the supply of shabu shabu restaurants is in NY, it’s basically impossible to come here without a reservation. The first time I tried to come here I made the mistake of not having a reservation, came at 5:45pm thinking that I would be fine since it was just me and my girlfriend and was told it was a 2 hour wait, so I left and ended up making a reservation a week in advance the next time.
Shabu-Tatsu actually specializes in four things: shabu shabu, sukiyaki (meats and vegetables cooked in a shallow hot pot in a sauce of soy sauce, mirin and sugar and then you dip everything in raw egg), yakiniku (Japanese version of Korean BBQ) and dol sot bi bim bap (claypot rice dishes). However, I feel like they are more known for their shabu shabu than their other offerings. While I always prefer restaurants to specialize in one thing if you think about it with the exception of the dol sot bi bim bap all of the dishes are fairly similar; they are do it yourself cooking using thinly sliced meats (mainly beef) and vegetables, so I don’t think it takes much to offer all of these dishes if you’re offering any one of them.
The restaurant looks pretty Japanese with white walls with lots of wood finishing. There is a circular grill in the middle that can be used to either put a hot pot in for shabu shabu or sukiyaki or to grill meat for yakiniku. The service was fine albeit a bit brisk as they seem to be busy trying to wait on all the tables. The clientele is mainly Asian with a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Korean with a few others in the mix.
On to the food:
Eel Bi Bim Bap:
This is rice in a sizzling clay pot. They offer various different toppings and I decided to order the unagi (freshwater eel). It was unagi on a bed of rice topped with unagi sauce, which is a thick sweet sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar (I believe the real version uses eel bones as well). The server mixes the rice and the eel together in the clay pot and then puts it into small bowls for the table. The eel was tasty and the sauce was pretty decent, but the rice didn’t have enough crispy pieces as I really like the crispy rice from the bottom of the clay pot. 7.75/10
I’m going to break this down by sauces and ingredients.
Here’s a picture of the hot pot:
The sesame sauce is the typical thicker sesame sauce that is slightly sweet and tastes like sesame (think of the sesame noodles from your local Chinese take-out joint). Generally, the sesame sauce is not my favorite, but I use it to change it up a bit. 7/10
Ponzu sauce is a sauce made of soy sauce and ponzu. Ponzu is made up of mirin, rice vinegar, katsuoboshi flakes (dried fish), seaweed and some citrus fruits like yuzu or lemon. The sauce basically tastes like a citrus-y sour soy sauce. They give you a side of grated daikon (radish) and chopped scallions, which I liberally add to the ponzu sauce. This is my favorite sauce for Japanese shabu shabu as it makes everything taste good and I love adding the daikon and scallions to it. 8.25/10
Vegetables and Noodles:
There was cabbage, tofu, udon noodles, clear noodles, tofu, mushrooms, scallions and another green vegetable I couldn’t identify. Everything tasted fresh and good. 8/10
The beef was clean tasting and good quality. It tastes great with ponzu sauce and some white rice. 8.25/10
After you are done, they bring a cup that has salt and various other seasonings in it and you add the broth that you were cooking your meats and vegetables into it. The result is a pretty tasty soup. I liked the seasonings that they used here as it can be bland if the seasonings are too light, so I thought it was pretty good. 8/10
Overall, I found Shabu Tatsu to be a satisfying restaurant and I’m looking forward to going back to try their sukiyaki. If you’re looking for shabu shabu, I’d recommend trying it out.
216 E 10th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
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