Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu
Disappointing. It looks like the real deal with Chinese clientele and a beer gardenish setup for hot pot with infrared burners at each table. I found the hot pot portion of the menu a notch or two below that of Bamboo Buffet of Falls Church. The portions are stingy and arbitrary divided into lamb, beef or seafood. At Bamboo Buffet you have access to everything, unlimited, for roughly the same price. (Not sure BB serves lamb. BB meat is fresh or at least thawed out, not frozen like Bob's.) The sampling of ingredients looked like a joke. Huge pieces of uncut white bulk cabbage like what'd you'd see in food service at a bad uni cafeteria. No watercress, no bamboo shoots? I had great company and was full from the night before, so the food was kind of an afterthought. I would be sorely disappointed otherwise.
If you live in VA, take a pass on Bob's for hot pot and go to BB.
Btw, I got the Shabu Shabu, by accident, and not the Mongolian. The Shabu broth is ma-la mildly spicy, didn't sample the Mongolian broth. If you want Mongolian, make sure to specify it.
Depends what is your location and the type of food you are used to are enjoy.
House of Emperor in Ashburn looks like one of those American Chinese place. But, if you read Chinese, and chat up the owner. You'll find very good Taiwanese food there. They serves a speacity menu on wkds lunch only, that has items like soup dumplings, Taiwanese Hamberger, Taiwanese friend chicken, Taiwanese minced meat with rice, etc. But these are limited availbilities, and you may only know they exist if you speak Chinese and read Chiense ( they have some dishes that are only on the Chinese menu).
I don't know enough about Taiwanese cuisine to understand the variations, but somehow Bob has very different menus between Noodle 66 and 88 Shabu Shabu. (In case some don't realize, "Bob" is the proprietor for both places, which are less than a block apart).
Right now, I prefer 88 Shabu Shabu, if only for the Lion's Head Meatballs, which I find it impossible NOT to order, no matter when or with whom I go.
Oh, and the Taiwanese menu is translated reasonably well in both restaurants.
I am a huge fan of Bob's 88. I do both the Shabu and the Menu depending on mood. As tot he Shaby, I have never left hungry after having a meal of Shabu and if I add a small plate or two, I cannot finish the plate of veggies and fish balls and stuff that accompanies.
The meat does arrive frozen. In most establishments where meat is thin sliced, it is usually frozed to be sliced. If it is served still frozen, all the juices will remain in the meat. The flavor is not affected by this. If you let the meat thaw, the cutting of the meats allows a lot of the juice to run out and the flavor is diminished, so I have no problem with the flavor.
I have not been to Bamboo Buffet but I will try it. I have been to the Korean place behind Mike's Pizza & Subs in Annandale (foirget the name- OranGe Jib???) and had their all you can eat Shabu. Wife & I ate one plate of food as we couldn't eat any more. There was no more food than on two orders at Bob's and the price was $32. Bob's would have been $22.
AT Bob's, favorites include:
Cold Noodle Dishes of various descriptions
Beef with long pepper (soup or dish)
Cold Cuke Salad with Garlic Sauce
Spicy Tendon & Tripe combo
Clam soup with garlic
Clams with Thai basil
I believe Peter Pan in Fairfax also offers a winter time hot pot -- which I have not tried yet.
I didn't have anything to say about the non-hot pot side of the menu, but I am willing to return to sample the Taiwanese goodies. The small dishes would make a good dim sum or tapas-like alternative for groups.