Buried deep in the heart of Orange County is a restaurant that can be a little hard to categorize...but I'll try. California Shabu Shabu is a Japanese-style place that is fully Orange County but, like much of Orange County itself, very foreign.
Shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ), which originated in Osaka Japan during the mid 1900s, is based on the Chinese-hot-pot style of cooking. The Japanese name comes from the sound the food makes as it's waved back and forth in the boiling water, literally "swish swish".
California Shabu Shabu is a California-ized version of shabu shabu. In this case, each person has their own pot of boiling water to which you add your choice of thinly sliced meat, sauces, veggies, and tofu. A more traditional version would be served family style where a family or group would share the same pot. I once had an amazing shabu shabu with a group of 8 or 9 people while in a tiny bar in downtown Nagasaki. What they serve here is similar but comes with the BONUS of being able to understand more than 15-20% of what's being said around me!!!
Most ingredients are cooked and eaten individually. The cooking process only takes a few seconds for the meat and less than a minute for most of the veggies. When you're done cooking all of your ingredients you're left with a brothy liquid that you can add rice or, my favorite, udon noodles to make a great soup.
California Shabu Shabu is one of my favorite OC places to eat and is one of several Japanese-style and authentic Japanese businesses located near the intersection of Bristol and Baker streets in Costa Mesa. The place is fun and sometimes exciting as the folks who go there are usually having a good time playing with their food and drinking beer or sake.
If you haven't been there yet, get your butt into your car and go. Better yet, give me a call and we'll go together. You can thank me later...maybe by buying me something interesting at the nearby Mitsui Japanese supermarket! For now, swish swish しゃぶしゃぶ。。。