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Dec 21, 2008 11:54 AM

Real Shabu Shabu in VA/DC?

Spurred on by this topic ( about Bob's Shabu Shabu, I was wondering if there were some off-the-radar facilities that serve *authentic* Shabu Shabu? (authentic meaning... REAL Shabu Shabu, not Chinese hot pot).

I was really disappointed that Bob's, known as the best (and possibly only) Shabu Shabu in the area. After hiking to Rockville, I didn't even get what they advertised. (It's not called Bob's Taiwanese Style Shabu Shabu-esque Hot Pot


I'm guessing that some Japanese restaurants might offer it as a 'sharing' dish for couples/groups of four, or some Korean restaurants might have something closer to what I'm looking for...

I've attached photos of real shabu shabu I had in Japan to give you an idea.

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  1. OMG, hilarious! I've never had it myself, but I think I've seen people having something similar at Tachibana in McLean. Also, never been to this place, but Blue Ocean in Fairfax is supposed to be pretty authentic Japanese. Maybe worth a call?

    1. I've had it at Akasaka. (That was 5 or 6 years ago, though, so I'd call ahead before trekking there if you want to avoid more disappointment.)

      Akasaka Japanese Restaurant
      514 S Van Dorn St, Alexandria, VA 22304

      1. I'll ask my usual question whenever someone wants an "authentic" version of a dish. What makes it "authentic?" What do you expect to get that you didn't get which makes what you had (or saw) less authentic?

        "Shabu shabu" is the sound of pieces of meat swishing around in hot broth. Unless what Bob's serves is just a bowl of already prepared soup, I'd think that the dish is subject to a pretty wide range of possibilities as to what's in the broth for starters, what meat and dipping sauces, and what other vegetables are served. Are there any rules?

        I've had the dish once, at a restaurant in San Francisco that specialized in it, probably about 40 years ago. It was fun, but I thought it was mostly a novelty. I never saw it while I was in Japan.

        9 Replies
        1. re: MikeR

          hmm.. I thought I was pretty specific on what "Authentic" was and included pictures.
          Shabu Shabu is the sound the meat (usually pork) makes when swishing in the shallow pot filled with hot broth. That, paired with the vegetables like negi (green onion), makes it authentic. Authentic would be getting this Japanese dish (done correctly, another requirement for it being 'authentic') at a japanese establishment (if not Japanese owned, at least a Japanese restaurant).

          I don't go to a french restaurant for Latino food (and viceaversa). So why would I go to a Chinese restaurant for a Japanese dish. (Though, I explained how I was tricked... T_T)

          Thankfully Blue Ocean, nearby to where I live, seems to have it. (though pricey! It's pricey in Japan as well though -- thats why its usually split between many people). I will explore Tachibana/Akasaka

          1. re: discojing

            Sorry but your pictures didn't tell much of a story to me. It looked like a table full of ingredients and a pot of broth. So it's not authentic because it's not served in a Japanese restaurant?

            If you didn't care for the taste of the broth, or the meat wasn't fresh or was cut too thick or too thin, or a vegetable that you'd expected was missing and/or something else was substituted, those are valid things about which to comment. But to say something isn't "real" without an explanation to us gaijin who may not know the fine points are is . . . well . . . pointless.

            Oh, was the beer real?

            1. re: discojing

              What makes Shabu Shabu exclusively a Japanese dish? Having spoken with Bob many times, the "Taiwanese" Shabu Shabu is a long-time custom in Taiwan. And, yes, it is different than the Japanese version, which doesn't make it any less authentic (or tasty). But the principle is similar - small pot of boiling broth, plate of veggies, plate of meat - play with your food!

              By that argument, you shouldn't go to an Italian restaurant to get pasta, because they got the original pasta recipes from Chinese merchants 1000 years ago?

              Also, to add to the discussion, Bob is no longer associated with Bob's Shabu Shabu - he sold it last month.

              1. re: DanielK

                Authenticity is about the technique the food is cooked and the ingredients used. I've had great korean-made sushi that tasted wonderfully, and I still considered it sushi. I've also hade Japanese-made sushi that wasn't authentic, so the ethnicity/nationality of an individual has no coorelation to its authenticity.

                Not to mention it's not authentic because it is *not* shabu shabu. If it's Japense-style or Chinese-style of a NON japanese/chinese dish, its usually signified by a name change. (tian shin is the Japanese version of dim sum/dian xin). Japanese cream puffs (not the same as french cream puffs) are called "shu curimu" -- not "curimu puffu" (cream puff) -- they acknowledge the difference.

                On a side note, what do you think makes a dish authentic? Is a piece of flat bread with toppings called "Pizza" -- where is the line drawn between deviating and just lying?

                1. re: discojing

                  First off, there is a long tradition of countries/cultures taking on dishes from other countries. These then may become part of the new countries culinary heritage. Korean Style Chinese is one example. Taiwanese style shabu shabu is another. So you don't like it is OK, But Bob's does not trick or lie. They are a Taiwanese restaurant and to accuse them of tricking or lying as you have repeatedly is just not fair to the owners and employees of the restaurant.

                  I have been eating Chinese Hot Pots and "Shabu Shabu" as well as Japanese Shabu Shabu in Los Angeles and San Francisco since the early 70's and have seen all types of variations. Which of these is authentic? Certainly none are authentically Japanese and that is fine. None of therestaurants are Japanese restaurants or advertize their Sahbu as Japanese.

                  As to pizza, what 2 Amy's serves as pizza would probably not be recognized as "real" pizza in Rome where the crust is thinner and more crisp. So is 2 Amy's tricking roman pizza lovers? Is Comet tricking Italians because they serve New Haven style? And actually the historical documentation seems to suggest that Roman soldiers and wine drinkers did dine on flat breads with toppings and nothing like today's pizza. They seemed to be unleavened.

                  I hope that we can agree or disagree on food without turning to name calling just ebcause we don't like a particular style of food.

                  1. re: deangold

                    I didn't see any name calling??

                    "I was really disappointed that Bob's, known as the best (and possibly only) Shabu Shabu in the area. After hiking to Rockville, I didn't even get what they advertised. (It's not called Bob's Taiwanese Style Shabu Shabu-esque Hot Pot)"

                    i also explained why it isn't shabu shabu (ahem.. taiwanese shabu shabu is not shabu shabu and shouldnt be called shabu shabu. if you saw it next to real shabu shabu and had to choose and point which was which, you would say that the real shabu shabu was shabu shabu and that the 'taiwanese-style shabu shabu" was chinese hot pot) i explained what is and isn't shabu shabu, as defined by the word. i don't know what "taiwanese shabu shabu" you had, but that was hot pot what i had at bob's "shabu shabu". I've even asked numerous chinese people, and they say it's hot pot, not chinese style shabu shabu or what not.

                    why are you getting all fired up over shabu shabu anyways? this thread was created to search for real, authentic, shabu shabu, not to discuss the differences between the "versions" or "spinoffs" of it, the original shabu shabu as it was created (or the closest to it). it wasn't made to discuss the differences and defend the validity of all dishes that 'claim' (mistakenly) to be shabu shabu.

                    If I were going to open a place called "Nicole's Sushi" or whatever, I would make sure to have Sushi. Not some rice/seaweed/fish tossed salad that I called sushi. But then again, isn't that a 'variant' on sushi? It has all the ingredients and the equipment and the techinque to make the sushi rice and slice the sushi.

                    *This* is the point I am making.

                    Why can't people just acknowledge that the Bob's Shabu Shabu wasn't real shabu shabu, just taiwanese hot pot, and that Bob made a mistake in naming his place "Shabu Shabu" (and was worsened by the locals who didn't know what shabu shabu was that advertised it as the 'best'). It's not like I got on him for his "Noodle Shop" -- he delivered what he advertised.

                    And I made the mistake of comparing shabu shabu to pizza -- pizza is a complicated dish with known regional variations.
                    Shabu shabu is a one-style only kinda thing in terms of the style of the dish (ingredients such as meat/vegetables differ of course), so lacks the regional capabilities of pizza. BUT saying you serve Deep Dish pizza when you serve regular crust pizza, is the same thing as what I'm saying. You're serving a type of hot pot food, but not delivering on what it *actually* is. [Because Shabu Shabu is a variant of hot pot (nabe) because it *does* use a pot.. that is hot.. to heat something up that cooks the food on the table] It's like getting French-style duck or a turkey at Mark's Duck House, when obviously you think you're going to get duck there.

                    1. re: discojing

                      Can you please explain in some detail the differences that you observe between REAL SHABU SHABU and a Taiwanese (or any other) hot pot? There must be something subtle that's getting you all riled up about this. You don't have to pound on the table and say you're disappointed, educate us. Is it the ingredients? Is it the way it's presented? Is it the sauces?

                      Do they not give you raw ingredients and chopsticks? Everything you seem to describe appears to be present at Bob's. What's the critical element? Please???

                      Is it the broth that's the problem? That there's not a separate broth for cooking meet and vegetables? Can you not accept that "Shabu Shabu" is a term that has been corrupted to mean meat and vegetables cooked as you eat rather than a very specific list of ingredients?

                      We all know that tea is a plant. So why do they serve sandwiches and call it 'tea?" I think you're being too pedantic here. Can't you just enjoy your food?

                      1. re: discojing

                        Your analogies are flawed, because you're missing a very simple point: multiple cultures are allowed to use the same word to describe different things. In the same way that if you go to Venezuela and ask for an arepa you'll get something similar to but not the same as what you'll get if you go to Colombia and ask for an arepa, Taiwan and Japan have different (fairly similar) dishes that are both called "shabu-shabu". Getting outraged because you were expecting one version and got another is like getting outraged because you went to Capital Q expecting Carolina-style vinegary pork barbecue and instead got Texas-style brisket. It's not your fault for not knowing what to expect, but it's not their fault for not explicitly spelling out in their name exactly what variant of the dish they happen to serve.

                        So please. We've given you other suggestions. Try them, or don't; either way, let the Bob's issue drop.

              2. re: MikeR

                I have had a dish many times in Japan that I assumed was shabu shabu. This was in various small non-tourist towns where we non-Japanese turned heads on the street, which certainly argues for it being "authentic" and argues against it being a "novelty." Typically, it was as described by Dean Gold below: what appeared to be rib eye sliced paper thin. In one case, the texture and marbling of the meat and the fact that it literally melted in the mouth led me to think it was Kobe beef. (And I mean real, authentic Kobe beef: raised near Kobe Japan, listening to classical Japanese music, and recieving massages--not what is typically billed here as "Kobe Beef." I couldn't ask my hosts because that would have been extremely rude). On another occasion several years apart but with the same hosts in another small town on the coast, we were served huge platters of seafood to cook in the broth. The shrimp were so fresh that they literally walked off the platter and down the table, trying to get out of reach of chopsticks.

                In all cases, you dip and swish the morsel until cooked and then eat it immediately. We each had a personal small dish of dipping sauce (like you have with sushi), but I honestly don't recall the nature of the sauce, and chances are it was different for beef and seafood. AFTER you have eaten the meat or seafood, other things can go in: the vegetables and then noodles that you fish out and put in your own bowl to eat. As it was explained to me, you make a broth with the meat or seafood, give it more flavor with the vegetables and make soup with the noodles.

                Like the OP, I was originally pleased to see shabu shabu in a restaurant in the area. However, I realized quickly that I wouldn't be happy with it based on the description in the threat and never even bothered to try it.

                Are there any rules? I suspect there are in Japan. Nobody--even the French--are more precise than the Japanese when it comes to cooking and eating. I don't happen to know what the rules are.

              3. What are some distinguishing differences between shabu shabu and hot pot (since it is just a variant of hot pot and it didn't originate in Japan)? I've had plenty of hot pots but never had authentic shabu shabu. I don't recall seeing shabu shabu on Tachibana's menu.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                  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.

                  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.

                  1. re: discojing

                    Just antoehr ad to the discussion. Acording to Wikippedia,, Shabu Shabu is a variant of hot pot and brought to Japan from Mongolia. So discussions of authenticity are always difficult.

                    1. re: deangold

                      My (admittedly laowai) understanding is that the issue is complicated further by the fact that Japanese immigrants to China re-imported Shabu Shabu, so that there are Japanese places in Taiwan that distinguish between Taiwanese Shabu Shabu (I believe called "suo suo guo" in Taiwan, and at some places I've seen in California) and regular hot pot ("huo guo"). So when I hear "Taiwanese Shabu Shabu", I would assume they are talking about "suo suo guo", and not either Japanese Shabu Shabu or a hot pot dish.

                      The bigger issue might be that Bob is no longer at Bob's 88, and from recent reports, the quality of the food has gone downhill. Perhaps the selection of broths has also gone away, causing some of discojing's distress? It sounds like his main complaint is that his broth was the spicy red one, but I distinctly remember a basic broth being an option.

                    2. re: discojing

                      Let me see if I have this straight. Taiwanese shabu shabu = broth (usually just chicken stock), which is used to cook both meat and veggies. Real shabu shabu = broth that is only used to cook meat. So if you didn't put any veggies in a Taiwanese shabu shabu, you'd get real shabu shabu? Is the problem that they put veggies in at Bob's without your consent?

                      1. re: Ericandblueboy

                        i ordered shabu shabu, but i got a deep, red flavored pot that everythiing got put in to cook at the same time. maybe this is the difference.

                        I never saw this alleged "taiwanese shabu shabu" -- i just received "bobs shabu shabu", which wasn't even a variation. what you talk about seems much closer to what I was looking for.

                  2. I saw this thread:
                    Does anyone know if Yosaku is still around? Their site is broken