Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Jul 14, 2009 12:25 AM

California Shabu Shabu - Costa Mesa - Review

My friend suggested to try out this shabu shabu place that just opened near the LAB in Costa Mesa. So a few of us carpooled there for lunch one Friday... we got there around noon and the place was about half full.

Decor was modern minimalist, with two large oval bars in the center of the room. From what I remember, there were no individual tables- you had to sit in the communal bar area. I don't mind communal areas for a small group, but since we were a group of 6, I basically only talked to my friends to the right and left of me... not much socializing at all. Like most shabu shabu houses, each person had their own little hot pot to cook with.

The order came with the usual: kelp dashi (broth), rice, ponzu sauce, goma (sesame sauce), udon (3 strands), napa cabbage, carrots, dried kelp, green onions, and bok choy. However, for the price I was paying for lunch ($11.50), they skimped on many of the sides that other shabu houses serve (eg, mushrooms, vermicelli, fish cake). The ponzu sauce had a nice sourness to it, but wasn't salty enough; the sesame sauce was too sweet and I couldn't even taste the nutty flavors of sesame.

I ordered the regular beef plate- 8 slices of thinly sliced beef. The cut seemed to be thinner than most places I've been to and the beef wasn't too fresh either- there were small brown streaks in a few of the slices... The meat itself was mediocre... not very tender.

California Shabu Shabu seems to be another one of those trendy restaurants trying to catch on to the latest shabu shabu bandwagon craze. At prices like that, with an economy like this, they better boost their quality (and quantity) for them to compete against the dozens of shabu houses in the OC. For a true Shabu Shabu experience, I will MUCH rather fork out $$$ for a traditional 8-course dining extravanganza at KaGaYa in Little Tokyo.

All the pictures and review are posted on:

California Shabu Shabu
801 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I agree with you about VALUE of a meal. My suggestion for Shabu Shabu is a new gem I found in Santa Ana called Shabu Shabu Bar. It's like no other Shabu Shabu place I have tried and you get large portions for competitive prices. Check out my review of Shabu Shabu Bar:

    ***An Edgy new Shabu Shabu place hidden between a Chipotle on their right and a L&L Hawaiian BBQ on their left.***

    As you walk in, you're shocked by the beautiful decor and hip music. The attractive staff and upbeat atmosphere makes this definitely the "IT" place to eat!

    1st time Shabu Shabu guests are forever ruined by the fresh handmade spicy cheese gyoza's, the high quality meats, large plates of organic vegetables, and delicious healthy sauces. Even their water is Bionic; filtered and pH-balanced to the water within our bodies.

    Experienced Shabu addicts would be surprised by their goma (sesame) sauce and may even confuse their sauce for watered down peanut sauce. On the contrary, guests are invited to grind their freshly roasted sesame seeds before goma sauce is added to the sauce bowl. Unlike most other Shabu places, they do NOT add any peanut butter to thicken their sauce. Their goma sauce really is strictly sesame sauce and their ponzu is truly a fresh citrus based soy sauce.

    In addition to their sauces, their vegetable plates are beautifully arranged and incredibly large! These vegetable plates include napa cabbage, bok choy, enoki and shitake mushrooms, tofu, spinach, sweet white corn, carrots, along with udon and clear rice noodles.

    Vegetarians would easily be happy with just that veggie plate, but there are special vegetarian plates that include even more... such as Japanese pumpkin slices, snow peas, and vegetable gyoza's in addition to the standard veggie plates.

    Now for carnivores like myself, the ribeye is fantastic! However, I've tried their Kurobuta - Berkshire pork which is equally tasty. Poultry and seafood lovers will enjoy the Jidori - free range chicken slices, white tiger shrimp, jumbo sea scallops, large mussels, and yummy catch of the day.

    For those high-end carnivores, you cannot miss the opportunity to enjoy some Prime, Japanese Kobe, and the exclusive Japanese Wagyu flown in from Japan!

    What makes this place even more unique is their RARE Sake Library that is hand-selected by their Sexy Owner who serves only the best sake's from Japan. Unlike most house sakes, Shabu Shabu "Bar" House Sake is smooth and delicious!

    On the rare occasion when a guest has a chance to speak with the Sexy Owner, you'll find out that the name of this place is actually Shabu Shabu "Bar." Although their sign may appear with a large S and Habu Habu twice, the right half of the S symbol holds the subtle black bar where it gets their name.

    If you did not save any room for dessert, then you will miss out on their Green Tea and rare Kuro Goma (Black Sesame) ice cream. Mochi fans should not miss out on the assortment of Strawberry, Mango, Vanilla, Chocolate, Green Tea, and Kona Coffee mochi ice cream!!!

    What more could a guest want from a Shabu Shabu place? Whether your dining alone, as a couple, or in a party, the Shabu Shabu "Bar" team makes you feel welcome and special. For us average joe's, it's especially nice to get served by their extremely attractive servers! Unfortunately, I am unable to remember all their names, but Kat, Vivien, Sara, and Anne come to mind. The guys are good looking too; Geamore is simply hilarious!

    Before I forget, for those who love hot and spicy, you must try a "Hot Shot!" Apparently, it was created during their Grand Opening After Hours Party! Wish I was lucky enough to have received an invite to that party... Maybe I'll get invited to their next one... Until then, I'll just party with them during regular business hours.

    1 Reply
    1. re: where2chow

      Wow, what a review! I will investigate and see if it's all hype.

    2. This place is notoriously overrated but has a surprising following. Both the food and service is mediocre while the prices lead you to believe otherwise. It must be the high volume of sake they are drinking before they actually get their food. By the time you get your food, anything tastes great with sake and deep hunger in the belly. I agree, it's better to pay high prices for high quality food and service at Kagaya. I only wish there was a comparable place in Orange County to avoid the long weekly trek.

      California Shabu Shabu
      801 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA