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Mar 5, 2002 09:51 AM

Japanese Hot Pot Restaurant- What to Expect?

  • f

I was walking around Chinatown and noticed a Japanese Hot Pot Restaurant near Peach Farm Restaurant and peeked in and saw a row of metal pots along a long counter in front the seating. It sounds good but it looks like an interactive experience. I'm terrified of going in and looking like a dummy or not knowing what to order. But I want very badly to try it.

There are of couple like restaurants in the area.

Anyone out there with "inside" knowledge?

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  1. Brand spankin-new!!! FatBoy, it's up to you to do the honors!! Hey, what do we think of this for a chowhound dinner? I believe it was reviewed in the phoenix a few weeks ago; go to

    6 Replies
    1. re: galleygirl

      The place is called Shabu Zen, on Tyler St. across from China Pearl. I went there a couple of weeks ago, and it's a lot of fun. Very interactive and very tasty, but don't be afraid of making a fool out of yourself. Check out the review, and it will tell you everything you need to know.


      1. re: PeteC

        Aren't there a few? And isn't Japanese Hot Pot the actual name of the one that took Golden Palace's spot? Oh wait, that's Big Fish Tank, another descriptive name!!

        1. re: galleygirl

          Many thanks to all that answered my question. There was enough info for me (and anyone else who read these posts) to go and try it without the apprehension.

          Some Vietnamese restaurants will do a similar fondue thing except that you roll the meats up in rice paper with lettuce, cucumber, and some aromatic green leaf (my wife doesn't know the English word for it) and dip it into a sauce as you eat it. One example is "Bo Bay Mon" at Pho2000. I think they offer seafood fondue also. I'll check.

          1. re: fatboy

            The Viet Cafe in Arlington does this type of hot-pot as well. Thin sliced raw beef, rice noodles, shredded vegetables, served with rice paper and a hot-pot of rice-vinegar and lemongrass. It's very tasty, though the rice paper takes some practice to master.

      2. re: galleygirl

        I think that's an excellent suggestion, galleygirl. Sounds like a fun place for a group.

        fatboy -- I have been watching Shabu Zen since before it opened and have several times strode boldly up its steps only to lose heart and slink away at its very door, intimidated and ashamed that I wouldn't know how to conduct myself. I feel your pain, man.


        1. re: Psmith

          psmith, I find in inconcievable that you couldn't rise to the occasion and assimilate the appropriate mores of those you were socializing with, with or without headgear!

      3. If you are referring to Shabu-Zen, I went there a few weeks ago and it was great fun. You sit in front of an inlaid pot of boiling broth, and then they bring you raw dishes and condiments and you cook them yourself. The salmon that I had was meltingly fresh and sweet and everything else, mushrooms, vegetables, noodles, came out of the broth tasting, though somewhat mild, delicate and delicious. I did not read the review in the Phoenix, but it was reported to me that they said in the review that there was pork in the broth, a huge humiliation for me because I keep kosher. The broth did not taste at all meaty. Can anyone confirm for me if this is true or not? Cause I'd love to be able to go back again. By the way, the reason that this style of cooking is called shabu-shabu is that that is the onomatopoeic sound in Japanes for the swish of the broth as it cooks the food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tamarrl9

          One tip is not to dump everything in the hot pot at once. Rather swish red meats and veggies until tender--cooking, dipping in sauce, and eating bite for bite. Leave items that take longer (like chicken) to simmer in the broth and fish them out later. Traditionally you wait until after you've eaten the meats&veggies to add the noodles. They're then served as a soup with the broth, which will have grown more flavorful. Yum!

        2. I lived in Japan for a while and have eaten shabu shabu often -- it's one of my all-time favorite winter meals (I make it at home, thanks to provisions from the Asian markets in Cambridge). I haven't been to this particular place, but I can give you a few tips.

          1) Traditionally, the broth shouldn't include pork. It is traditionally just water and a large piece of seaweed. The broth gets flavored by the things you put in it. (not sure about this partic. restaurant, tho.)

          2)It's supposedly called shabu shabu for the sound that the sliced beef makes as you swish it around in the broth. This brings me to a key issue -- don't dump the meat in and leave it there for long. It's best to keep it in your chopsticks the whole time -- swish it around in the broth until it looks lightly cooked, and then dip it immediately in the sauce and eat it. The beef is sliced extra-thin, and you'll overcook it if you leave it in there for too long.

          3)Other typical items are tofu, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, leeks, carrots, etc. Some of these will take longer to cook and can be left in the broth for a while.

          4)You'll need to skim the broth periodically -- brown gunk will form at the surface of the broth. Have an empty bowl on hand for that.

          5)At most places, you'll also get some noodles. Add them when everyone's had their fill of meat and veggies. That's the best part -- the broth is nice and flavorful to slurp, and the noodles are a great finish.

          6) This is a fine point and probably unnecessary, but in Japan it is customary to use the other end of your chopsticks for serving yourself from a shared bowl. So, if you want to follow this rule, you should use that end of your chopsticks for swishing and adding stuff to the pot.

          Have fun!