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Jun 15, 2011 07:27 AM

King Shabu Shabu - New South Bay Restaurant Review - Torrance

It always makes me happy when I see an empty location in a strip mall get filled with a new restaurant.

The inside of the restaurant looks modern and slick. You can see the interior on the website.

The first time my wife and I went, they were only open for a few days. The servers seemed enthusiastic but not very well organized.

We asked the server what they recommended and they suggested we order a large 2 item combination to share. We chose the choice angus ribeye and salmon. They brought out two plates of vegetables and gave us very little instructions on how to dine shabu shabu (so, if you've never been to a shabu shabu, you'll be up the creek). Your eating utensils are stainless steel (I believe) chop sticks, so if you're not a genius with them (they're pretty slick), it may be problematic. The servers seem like they were born in the States but didn't pick up on our lack of skill using stainless steel chopsticks. They didn't offer us a fork when they saw us struggling. Maybe it's a cultural thing not to offer someone an alternative eating implement. Anyhow, we asked if they had it, and they did give us a fork.

Now, onto the food. The portions are fine, if not pricy. I think they're trying to pay for the dozens of induction burners they're using and shiny decor. The beef was good, nothing special. (We didn't order the prime beef or the wagyu though. The wagyu beef is 45-68 dollars per serving.) The salmon had a somewhat strong fish odor (but not to the point where I'd send it back). They served it with a peanut sauce and some soy based sauce. The sauces were just okay. They also offer minced garlic, a few other condiments like togarashi, plain soy sauce, and chili oil The manic... I mean, enthusiastic, server asked if I "liked it spicy." I said, "yes," so he came over with a dropper with this fluid, and I dropped a few drops into each of my sauces. I love heat, but this was probably a capsaicin extract and shouldn't really be added in such large quantities. I think he should have explained what it was he was offering first. I would've turned him down but he zipped in and zipped out. It basically ruined the sauces and chemically burnt my tongue.

Set up wise, they have a few tables and a bar with individual pots. We were sat down at one of the tables. We each had our own induction burner and bowl, but the awkward table set up made it difficult to share the meat platter (i.e. the tables needed a common area) without risking burning yourself.

When we were done with the meats and we had a lovely broth and some udon noodles to finish the meal, it seemed like a no-brainer for them to bring a bowl that you could ladle the broth into a vessel closer to you (since the pot was super hot and you couldn't move it right under you." We had to ask, instead of the server anticipating the need. We also had to ask for spoons. To me, it was almost like they didn't know how to dine shabu-shabu.

When we got the bill, we see they added an additional fee for a second plate of vegetables for my wife. This wasn't mentioned on the menu or by the server and I suppose I could've spoken up, but I felt it was fair.

Okay, my wife and I figured the relatively new opening of the restaurant lead to some of the lack of smoothness to the service. So, we went back last night for a second try.

OH MY GOODNESS.... talk about a totally different experience... and not in a good way. The place was empty, and I mean chirping empty. It was around 730pm. We came in and they said "sorry, you can't sit at the tables, they're for parties of 3 or more, so you have to sit at the bar." I told them we sat at the table the first time, and the young lady said "Oh, this is a new policy." Okay, I can understand why they would want to do that, but still, the restaurant was empty. STRIKE 1. So, we sat down at the bar. We ordered again a large 2 item combo (except shrimp instead of salmon). This time, the server mentioned that "there will be a fee for the second plate of vegetables." We said okay. They must've received feedback. We then each opened our hot pots and started to season the water (which just had a slice of seaweed in it). The server then said "oh, you can't use 2 pots since you just ordered one entree (even though we ordered 2 vegetable servings). That's our new policy." STRIKE TWO. I'm thinking, you're sitting side by side each other, the induction burners are inset into the table and not easily accessed by the person next to you to swish their own meats. STRIKE 2. I then asked how much it would cost to have the second pot, and they said "8 dollars." Well, STRIKE 3 because that's a rip off for essentially boiling water. We stood up and walked out. They didn't say a thing. By the way, we were still the only patrons in the restaurant.

Unless this place works on their customer service, I give this place 6 months. I think I'll be going to Gyushintei Shabu Shabu when I want this style of dining in Torrance. My only regret was not giving them feedback before we got up and left. Being told "oh, this is a our new policy" really sounded to me like when you play a game with a small child and they make up new rules on the spot to suit their needs. Again, I found it really off-putting. I plan on writing the restaurant.

King Shabu Shabu
3525 Pacific Coast Highway
Torrance, CA

Gyushintei Shabu Shabu
24631 Crenshaw Blvd. #N
Torrance, CA 90505

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  1. Excellent report DrBruin. Sad to hear of your experiences especially in Torrance where we frequent. Never had a unpleasant meal at Shinsengumi on Artesia and Western in Gardena though. Prices seem comparable but the service and quality differ. Pleasant servers willing to assist for newcomers like us while the place was packed on weekend evenings.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Clinton

      Thank you Clinton for the kind words.

      Is Shinsengumi your favorite yakitori place in the South Bay? The pictures of the skewers on their website look delicious.

      By the way, I just read my posting and I'm cringing at my typos. Sorry.... I suppose that's why I didn't choose a career as a copy editor.

      1. re: DrBruin

        No need for apologies. I understood everything what was printed. The topic of food is universal! Shinsengumi is typically shabu shabu the one on Artesia Blvd. There are several other theme restaurants in their chain as I was told. I've also been to the one on Redondo Beach Blvd. which is called Hakata Ramen which was pretty good. I believe they have advertised specials showcasing their handmade noodles and broths maybe once a year or so? Check out their website explaining their specialty shops. I think you'll like it? Good luck.

        1. re: Clinton

          Gotcha.... I think I got confused with their website....

    2. Sad to hear it wasn't a great experience.. I perked up when I saw there was a new shabu shabu in town... There are surprisingly few in Torrance.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mstinawu

        I know... a total disappointment. Any particular places in Torrance you love to dine at?

        1. re: DrBruin

          I cycle through these places.. Off the top of my head.. Torihei.. Otafuku.. Taco Sinaloa.. Chantilly Patisserie.. Sushi Ken.. I'm guessing you've been to all those if you live in the area.

          OK, I don't think those are all in Torrance, but you get the point.

          16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

          Taco Sinaloa
          1647 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501

          1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

          Sushi Ken
          22831 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505

      2. Sad to hear you had such a bad experience. I was sitting right across of you the same day on the high bar seating with my wife that night. The interior is very clean, sleek, and relaxing. Service was great, and yes the chopsticks are slick and stainless steel, so wouldn't the smart thing to do is ask for a fork yourself instead of waiting to see if someone notices you acting a fool playing with your chopsticks? I've been to many restaurants before and don't waste my time to see how long it would take for someone to notice I can't use their chopsticks well. I would care more for the food than how to eat it.

        Being charged for an extra plate of vegetables is very understandable, no questions asked. Considering shitake mushrooms aren't cheap I don't think they would give another plate of it for free.. Also giving consideration that it does take time to cut and prepare the vegetables as well.

        Knowing that you like spicy foods, and have never tasted their drops before, the smart thing to do would be to try ONE drop first before trying any more. And if you don't like it.. ASK for a new bowl of sauce WITHOUT any drops. Know your tolerance. When they asked me for the drops, they specifically told me they were habanero extract, and me with my high tolerance, got a full line of it. Adds spectacular flavor to my meat, as well as flavoring to my soup base at the end (which I recommend you try at the end).

        The need to charge for an extra pot is also understandable, you are assuming that they are charging you just for the boiling water; but keep in mind the burner uses electricity to keep the water BOILED. I wouldn't think it sits there and just boils on its own..

        I'm a usual at this Shabu, I go there literally every week. Service is tip-top, meat quality is good, and the environment is very relaxing/modern. For anyone local in torrance, I suggest you go there before trying Gyushintei. Meat at King Shabu Shabu is fresh, and yes, the fish gives a fish odor.. because ITS UNCOOKED AND RAW (Duh, it's fresh!). As for the price, you get what you pay for. Go to cheaper Shabu places and expect low quality food.

        4 Replies
        1. re: NickGoober

          It's admirable that you defend your favorite place for dining but saying fish should give off an odor because it's fresh is crazy. Fresh fish should give off very little if any fishy odor if it's served and prepared properly. I personally have never been to King Shabu Shabu but I just wanted to weigh in on your statement. I'm happy that you like this place.

          1. re: NickGoober

            Nick, it's nice to hear you enjoy this place. However, it honestly sounds like you're a bit too defensive, rather than enthusiastic.

            Fresh fish shouldn't smell fishy. It should smell of the ocean. I am pretty sure this is common knowledge. I don't know how you can defend fishy smelling fish. The beef was pretty good. I have no beef with the beef.

            I do like the decor. There are pots on every induction burner when you enter the restaurant and they're all turned on. If electricity was such an issue, they should turn off the induction burners. I mean, it doesn't take long with an induction burner to bring a pot of water to boiling. 8 dollars is a ridiculous price, particularly when they didn't charge us the first time and because we had two plates of veg. If they're going to charge for a second plate of vegetables, I feel that alone should allow one to use the second pot without an additional fee.

            With respect to the fiery liquid, the frantic male server asked if I liked something spicy, and when I said yes (my initial thoughts were just to use the chili oil in the boiling water), he didn't tell me what he was getting and he applied several drops before I could say anything. Yes, I could've asked for new sauces, if I could've gotten the attention of the waitstaff. I don't know how you can say the service is tip-top. Maybe you're saying this because you've never dined at a restaurant with better service, so I'll cut you some slack on that comment. And, since they seem to be charging for everything, maybe they would've charged for new sauces. Yes, I could've asked for a fork. A "tip top" waitstaff would pick up on my need, like they do at nearly every other restaurant. And, how do you suppose I drink the soup without a bowl or a spoon from a hot steel pot? Should I have to grab the metal bowl and drink it? Or, do you think a "tip top" wait staff should pick up on this? I think they would automatically bring out the bowls. I don't think I should be expected to sip pipping hot liquid with veggies and udon out of a bowl. Maybe the service has improved but I thought the service actually took a major customer service step back on my second visit. I went back a second time because I didn't think the service was atrocious the first time, I thought the service was atrocious the second time.

            Last but not least, NickGoober, I do find it mighty strange though that this is the only posting you've ever put on Chowhound. Mighty strange, indeed. Just sayin'.

            1. re: DrBruin

              Hehe. Nice observation at the end, there.

            2. re: NickGoober

              second Clinton about the fish odor.
              FRESH fish, especially fresh raw fish, should NOT be giving off odor.
              when i was a young girl, and my mother was teaching me how to cook , she instructed me to walk out of any fish monger's shop if the shop smelled of fish.
              fishy odor in uncooked fish, nine times out of ten, is associated with spoilage

            3. Nice and detailed post Dr Bruin, too bad that you had such an unpleasant experience :o(

              It sounds like it may be a Korean owned place since Japanese don't usually use stainless chopsticks, especially in a hot pot of water. Also togarashi is not usually used in Shabu Shabu, momoji is...a chile paste. Also, it's not often that you'd find salmon or shrimp at a Shabu place. When they do offer seafood it's strange that they'd have you mix the beef and seafood in one pot since those two don't make a good stock together.

              Shabu Shabu Bar
              1945 E 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92705