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Jun 17, 2007 08:52 AM

Bob's Shabu Shabu

I realized that there is really no thread on the recent updates at Bob's Shabu Shabu.

Bob's is located on North Mongomery in Rockville. It is a really wonderful place with loads of options.

The basic option is the Shabu shabu. You get a pot of broth and a plate of veggies and fish balls tofu etc. Then you add an order of your favorite meat/seafood. I usually go with pork, clam or lamb or all three. The seafood is fresh but I find that its flavors get lost and its easy to overcook. You then go and make a dipping sauce ior two at the sauce bar. I use a lot of hot chili paste, some dark soy, maybe some fish sauce, onion and garlic with a touch of shacha for one and then another with the fermented tofu, vinegar, onion & garlic. I start wioth the veggies and the fish balls (which take a longer time. Then after the broth is getting some color and flaor I start to add the meat or clams. Finally at the end I add the noodle and the egg and turn the pot off and let the egg set in the hot broth.

But there is so much more to Bob's than Shabu. There is a Taiwanese noodle dish, cook your own too, with round almost crunchy noodles that is superb. There are many more cold noodle dishes and hot soup noodles as well and we have tried some but their names are all pretty similar so I am not too sure what we have actually had.

The dumplings and 1000 layer cake are ok but there are way better in the neighborhood (Joe's, Mama's, A&J) so we now pass. But the cooked dishes here are pretty damned good. WHole Tilapia is good, Lion's Head is better (even if my lion friends say they just don't like the name!). Lion's head is a huge meatball (think softball size) with ginger and other stuff (dried shrimp I think, 5 spices powder). It is steamed in a clay hot pot with a light and very good broth and cabbage. Amazing!!! Also good is the crispy tofu with extremely salty thick soy dipping sauce, cold dishes, beef with long pepper, pig's knuckle, salt and pepper fried shrimp and the shaved ice with fruit for dessert. We never have paid more than $25 a person and only then with lots of sake and beer.

Bob is a wonderful guy who wants you to ahve a good time. He also tells the world's worst jokes.

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  1. I didnt enjoy this place. I was expecting Japanese Shabu Shabu that is popular in the West coast. I tried almost all the sauces to dip the meat in and thought they were all bland. We didnt even finish our meal and went to Wendy's instead.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Meechi

      I'm not sure why, when walking past 3 foot high letters that say "Taiwanese", you would expect Japanese food.

      Bland sauce is more subjective - I certainly wouldn't call the chili sauces bland, but I must admit that I usually skip the Shabu Shabu and go straight for the extensive Taiwanese menu. Many of the dishes that Dean notes above (whole fish, salty/crispy shrimp, Lion's Head meatballs) are also my favorites.

      1. re: DanielK

        I've never seen that "Taiwanese" sign, but I would expect that since the name of the restaurant is "Bob's Shabu Shabu" that their signature dish would be good and its not at all. It's a very poor copy of what shabu shabu is supposed to be. The should have named their restaurant something else if their best dishes are from their Taiwanese menu. Anyone who's looking for Shabu do not go here.

        1. re: Meechi

          I respecfully but completely disagree. The Shabu is fun and good in my opinion. It is DEFINITELY not Japanese style.

          1. re: Meechi

            Yeah, you're still misreading my post, AND THEIR MENU, which clearly states that Bob is serving Taiwanese-style Shabu Shabu, not Japanese style.

            1. re: DanielK

              it's misleading because it's labeled as the best (and only) shabu shabu restaurant in the DC-metro area---even when it was reviewed by the Washington post. I have had good korean-made japanese food, so just because it says "Taiwanese-style" or whatever, I would assume it to be Shabu Shabu. it was hot pot food, HOT POT. Not Shabu Shabu whatsoever. I was very very very disappointed before coming to the realization that shabu shabu just isn't available in the DC area. Shabu Shabu is slices of meat put into hot broth to cook quickly, not a hot pot starting with an un-editable red stock that is deep and you leave items in there to cook....

              My recommendation is to go up the street to Bob's Noodle -- where they supply what they advertise.

              1. re: discojing

                Hmm.....Chinese hot pot has boiling broth. It's up to you whether you want to leave your meat in the broth or just swish it around. Not all hot pots are made with spicy broth. The spicy version is typical of Sichuan style

                1. re: discojing

                  I should point out (I didn't on the other thread) that Bob's Shabu Shabu has BOTH Shabu Shabu AND Hot Pot available on the menu.

                  The Hot Pot you put stuff in and let it go, and the Shabu Shabu you hold the meat on your chopsticks while briefly cooking it.

                  1. re: DanielK

                    I ordered Shabu Shabu and got Taiwanese Hot Pot. I didn't order Taiwanese Hot Pot and get Taiwanese Hot Pot.
                    Like I posted on the other thread:

                    It's a bit like the difference between Nabe (Japanese Hot Pot) and Shabu Shabu. Hot Pot is a .. hot pot that you put whatever you want in -- Shabu Shabu is just cooking your meat in the hot broth. Veggies are usually cooked seperately than the meat and the broth is not flavored with any sauces.

                    If it's "Taiwanese Style Shabu Shabu", they shouldn't just call it Shabu Shabu, they should use the Taiwanese words for it or use a disclaimer that it was "Taiwanese-Style". I knew right when I walked in that it wasn't going to be Shabu Shabu, but thought it would be at least *similar* to shabu shabu since the place was NAMED Shabu Shabu. (I went in Sept/Oct, when did you go?)

                    1. re: discojing

                      I've gone probably every month since they opened.

          2. A group of six of us tried out the family menu of preset meals at Bob's, so we bypassed the shabu shabu. We weren't given the family menu at first; we had to ask for it.

            Once we saw it, we realized it presented so many options and dishes that we did not even glance again at the regular menu. In addition to the set meal, we added an order of soup dumplings since they are not available at many places in the area.

            I have to say I was put off by the smell at Bob's. Is it the Shabu Shabu? A kind of rancid vinegary smell. My disgust did not abate with the first few dishes brought out.

            After the soup dumplings (which were similar to Chinatown Express but not as flavorful), we got:

            peanuts with dried seaweed (sugar?!?!?)

            drunken chicken ( a cold pressed chicken roll, sliced, no sauce) - next time I'll order my chicken sober, thank you, not as good as cold chicken, straight up.

            cucumber salad - a bit more watery than I'm used to

            fish ball soup - very weak broth, fish balls were hard like tennis balls and smelled of old fish.

            It wasn't until we got to the main courses that we finally got something worthy of a Chowhound gathering.

            Dean is right, the Lion's Head is amazing, and as descibed above. Do not miss it. The short ribs with black pepper are the same as Bob's 66 across the street, delicious, but served here drowning in gravy. The crispy shrimp is also a winner and beautifully executed. The tilapia was fine, though I thought the pickle sauce we orderd pulled some punches. Szechwan tofu was a sad version. Both the home style tofu was good and the eggplant with basil better, but both items I could get at quite a few places around town.

            I was shocked by the overall poor quality of what came out of the kitchen, since I have had a couple of exceptional meals at Bob's 66 across the street. Much of the food came out all at once, which made it a mess to deal with and made me wonder just how far in advance they prepare some of those sauces.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Steve

              Thank you for the update on Shabu Shabu. Is this in the newly renovated part of downtown Rockville? have you been to the other places there? I really like Miss Saigon in downtown Rockville. I"ve always had good food there. It sounds like it's not even worth trying Shabu out after all of the discussion. I just came to this site today, after visiting family in Oakland where it seems the best restuarants are. I was hoping to find the same quality of food here, in my home town of Rockville. So far, I haven't.

              1. re: charandy

                I think there's some real gold in Rockville, particularly the Chinese food is the best in the DC area. Just as I have said in the post above, I have had a couple of spectacular meals at Bob's Noodles 66. Joe's Noodle House is my single favorite place to eat in the region - and I have enjoyed eating at Mandarin Express, A & J, and Michael's Noodles, and there are others I haven't gotten to yet.

                I also recommend the ribs at Urban BBQ. Other places I would like to try are Cuban Corner, El Patio, the roast specials it Il Pinito, Sam's (an informal Persian Market and Cafe), well there are quite a few places I've heard about but since I don't live there, I'll have to get to them slowly.

                I don't know if it was in a newly renovated part of Rockville, it didn't seem so, but it was very dark when I was there.

                1. re: charandy

                  Both Bob's locations are a few blocks north of the new downtown Rockville, on N. Washington St.

                  Miss Saigon is pretty decent, but the only other food destination worth visiting in the new downtown is Bobby's Crabcakes.

                  1. re: DanielK

                    Have you tried La Flor de la Canale in the new Rockville? I went to their Gaithersburg location several times and thought it was wonderful.

                    1. re: rumple

                      Oh, good point - I haven't been to the Rockville Flor de la Canela yet, though I agree that the Gaithersburg location is very good.

                      1. re: rumple

                        I'm very curious to try this location as well. I've walked by, and from the outside it looks nice. It also looks pretty different from the G-burg location.

                      2. re: DanielK

                        Hey, DanielK--Anything particularly good at Bobby's Crabcakes, or does it distinguish itself simply by being better than everything else there?

                        Have you tried sushi damo? I've heard mixed things and have been curious.

                        1. re: Smokey

                          I had the Lobster Roll at Bobby's, and it was fantastic. Haven't had the crabcake yet!

                          I was turned off by Sushi Damo just because of the prices on the menu - seems extremely high for Rockville. Niwano Hana is around the corner, and is far cheaper, so I haven't ventured to SD yet to see if it's worthy of the price difference. In fact, was at NH last week, stuffed myself silly, and got change from a $20.

                          1. re: DanielK

                            I ate there a couple of months ago for lunch. Decor and service outstanding even if they did bring us the wrong specialty roll. But I've had better sushi elsewhere.

                  2. Dean, thanks so much for the recommendations for dishes here. I was looking for good Chinese, though I am not particularly experienced with it, and chose Bob's in large part due to this thread. I got the crispy tofu (didn't get any dipping sauce though and when I asked Bob, he said it didn't come with one so maybe I ordered the wrong item) and Lion's Head, and I loved both. The tofu was delicious, and I've never had anything like the Lion's Head -- 4 huge meatballs in delicious broth bursting with meaty flavor, as was the cabbage soaking in it. I didn't realize how much food we were ordering! The tofu appetizer portion is huuuuge, and the 4 huge meatballs are way way too much for me to eat -- I ate 1.5 (along with 1/3 of the tofu).

                    At any rate, we'll definitely be going back here, and thanks!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kallisti

                      Our latest addiction there is the Mongolian Hot Pot. If you order it hot it is ass hot as anything at Joe's Noodle House except the crispy dried fried beef.

                      1. re: deangold

                        That's a pretty appropriate typo there, Dean. :-)

                        1. re: DanielK

                          I guess you will have to wait till the next day to find out.... won't you!

                          1. re: DanielK

                            Yeah that typo cracked me up :)

                      2. Thanks for the heads up on this I cant wait to go there!!!!

                        1. With Bob's departure under misterious circumstances and the signs saying all you caneat shushi all over, Kay and I went back for the first time last night. The late night hours are still pretty late but clsoing time on Friday and Saturday is midnight and not the 1 or 2 am of before. The front room was closed off and the fish tanks were moved from their former locations to less obtrusive.spots with more tables with cookers in the spruced up area.

                          We ahd two fantastic dishes that were, if a little different, of a quality of old or better. The first was the cucumber salad which is a pretty simple, fresh salad of cukes in a soupy marinade with garlic and chiles on top, both green and red, burried under a mound of chopped cilantro. Loved it as the flavors were a little bolder and spicier. The Lion's Head was less fatty, which to some may not be a good thing but the lower fat level made them juicier and the broth was definitely richer. A great dish taken to a higher level.

                          The Mongolian Hot Pot was super spicy and the broth was superb. There was a lot more lamb on the platter too. But before it was served with a green that resembled sawtooth herb you get a pho but larger and chewier which really added the final flavor to the broth and loads of tofu skin. Last night it was served with the regular additions to the shabu and they didn't work as well. They neither flavored the broth or took on the flavor. So all in all, that dish was a mis.

                          I will be back to try more of the cooked dishes, especially the Taiwanese liver, a dish Bob served at a special lunch we arranged a while back.