Shabuway's Answer to Arnold Palmer: Half and Half Hot Pot
Shabuway recently opened its first San Francisco location and sixth overall in the Bay Area. Launched in San Mateo in 2004, the specialist of the Japanese hot pot style called shabu shabu opened subsequent locations in Mountain View, San Jose, Union City, and Santa Clara before venturing to San Francisco, a territory known to be fickle in how diners deal with shabu shabu restaurants (R.I.P. Prime Rib Shabu, Shabu Lounge, Watami Shabu Shabu, etc.).
Tamara Palmer Half and half hot pot at Shabuway.
Shabu shabu ("swish swish") is instant gratification; thinly sliced meats and veggies cook in boiling broth in a matter of seconds, after which they can take a jacuzzi in a bowl of ponzu or gomadare (sweet sesame) sauce and lounge atop a bowl of rice. Diners seated at tables (rather than the butcher's view that's provided at the counter) have the option of getting the Arnold Palmer of hot pots, a "half and half" special where you get to try both available broths: A simple seaweed-infused water broth and a spicy miso broth spiked with whole chilies and garlic cloves. This is definitely the way to go for flavor variety, and it arrives at the table in a cool yin-yang style pot.
Most places don't advertise anything about their meat but Shabuway is very proud to talk about its use of hormone and antibiotic free meats raised on vegetarian diets. Options include three cuts of beef (Angus Prime, American Kobe, American Kobe Lean), lamb, and Kurobuta pork, all beautifully marbled, each far more tender and flavorful than what typically comes across our chopsticks.
A tangle of udon noodles awaits under a pile of vegetables for the end of the soup portion of the meal; they're mixed with some of the seaweed broth and a soup base that's brought to the table for slurping. You'll scoff as they ask if you want black sesame or green tea ice cream (you'll want black sesame ultimately), but there will magically be room for a meal cap of one little scoop.
Next door is a sister noodle shop that we recently visited called Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, which has a lower price point (under $10) and is more of an everyday treat rather than what might be considered an occasional splurge at Shabuway, where a meal for two can easily top $50 (which is comparable to other shabu shabu places around town). Though, keep in mind there's a special at Shabuway where you can get 70 minutes of all you can eat for that price, and you'll probably never have to eat ever again after that.