Time to Shabu-Shabu: Sabu Sushi Bar

Almost a year after Jill, Kathryn and I had decided that we would dine at Sabu Sushi Bar together, we finally made it to the restaurant.

Last Wednesday, the three of us met at the Korean-Japanese restaurant Sabu to sample shabu-shabu. Although my family indulges in Chinese-style hot pot every now and then, this was my first dalliance with the Japanese version of hot pot. Jill and Kathryn, on the other hand, having both visited Japan and Korea years ago, were familiar with shabu-shabu.

The interior of Sabu is warm and comfortable, in spite of the low ceilings. The wood paneling and furniture were simple and unfussy, though the panelled booths at the front of the restaurant were eye-catching.

Sabu Sushi Bar

Interior

It was a quiet evening inside the restaurant, with only three other parties that dined alongside us that night. This translated into attentive service though, and later, when it looked like we needed some assistance with our approach to shabu-shabu, we received some motherly guidance.

To whet our appetite, we shared an appetizer of agedashi tofu ($5.95). Lightly fried and served in a slightly tart sauce, they were a tasty way to start our meal.

Sabu Sushi Bar

Agedashi tofu

We were directed by our server to start with two servings of food to share between the three of us ($19.95/serving), indicating that we could easily add more meat, vegetables, or udon if we still felt hungry afterwards. So along with a tabletop gas burner and a pot filled with coffee-coloured seaweed-based stock, two platters arrived: one laden with frozen rolls of thinly-sliced beef and a brick of udon, and another with soft tofu and an assortment of vegetables, including enoki mushrooms, baby bok choy, suey choy, onions and carrots. We were also given two dipping sauces, a creamy sesame sauce and ponzu, as well as a ladle and some tongs.

Sabu Sushi Bar

Meat and udon

Sabu Sushi Bar

Vegetables

Our server was apparently mistaken when he directed us to start with the udon first (after the soup had come to a boil). Not a moment later, the matron of the restaurant swung by our table and told us that the noodles are typically the last to go into the pot, as they would benefit from being simmered in a broth that by that point would have been flavoured by everything else that had come before it. No matter, she said, and before we could blink an eye, had spooned some of the cooked noodles and soup into our bowls, and showed us how to prepare the meat – swished around in the broth just until its hue changed, then dipped into the ponzu. In rolled form, the meat was easy to handle, and cooked and eaten as directed, was moist and tender, with a briny kick from the ponzu.

Sabu Sushi Bar

Pot before

Jill said it best – she enjoys meals most when they are “experiences”, and shabu-shabu is a great example of a fun and interactive way to dine. Eating a little bit of this, a little bit of that, one fills up surprisingly quickly though!

Sabu Sushi Bar

Pot after

I loved how the soup gradually thickened, enhanced by the items that simmered away. Unlike the Chinese-style hot pot I am used to, where the base (usually water and some chili paste) is not consumed, this actually made more sense to me – enriched by vegetables and meat, the intensely-flavoured soup should be a part of the meal! Kathryn remarked, as we approached the end of our second batch of soup, that the broth tasted very similar to the rich, beefy stock used in French onion soup, salty and concentrated with flavour. And as we let the mixture continue to reduce down, it ended up creating a luxurious syrup that I thought twice about packing up to bring home – it would have greatly enhanced any homemade soup.

Sabu Sushi Bar

Glorious shabu-shabu residue

Sabu provided a great introduction to shabu-shabu; I can’t stop thinking about that broth! It was really reasonably priced too – each of us paid just over $20 each (including tip!). Think about making Sabu your destination on a cold winter’s night – you won’t regret it!

Sabu Sushi Bar
7450 82 Avenue
(780) 756-7228
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 11am-3pm, 5-9pm; Friday: 11am-3pm, 5-10pm; Saturday 11am-3pm, 5-10pm; Sunday: noon-8pm; closed Tuesdays

7 thoughts on “Time to Shabu-Shabu: Sabu Sushi Bar

  1. wow.. Shabu Shabu…
    For sure I will have to try that. It’s very hard to get a good hot pot restaurant here.

  2. My wife, her father and I recently dropped in to Sabu for lunch; their sushi and tempura is also pretty decent. The service was excellent, our server was particularly cheerful and pleasant, though we were one of only two groups there for lunch that day.

    The location of this restaurant is unfortunate and awkward to access, though, so sadly I don’t see it sticking around for long.

  3. Jill – thanks! I agree – it was a fun night!

    Kathryn – especially on a night like tonight…I am craving that broth.

    Frank – definitely worth a try!

    Dave – great to hear you had a good lunch experience. Kathryn said many Koreans populate the neighbourhoods surrounding the restaurant; I hope this helps with the longevity of Sabu.

  4. This is awesome! I had no idea there was shabu shabu available in Edmonton – I’ve been looking high & low! Thanks for the review, Sharon!

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