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Jun 20, 2014 09:56 AM

New Akai Ryu, Porter Sq.- Japanese Shabu Shabu, Sushi and More

This is a new place in Porter Sq/2nd flr. specializing in shabu shabu and sushi. A 'gimmick' there, at least on its web menu, is a menu selection of mushrooms, but the ones listed are not what I would hope for(though that could be the result of the season.) I hope some intrepid hounds will try it soon and report back!

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  1. I tried it and was impressed. Top quality shabu ingredients and the sushi is good too. the restaurant decor is very nice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: biatpile

      that's great. what other sushi and shabu places do you like?

    2. Here is my Yelp Review re: Akai Ryu:
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      We ordered the vegetarian shabu-shabu combination. Here is the rundown:

      1) The Vegetarian Shabu-Shabu ($18) : Honestly, kinda disappointing. They had a few nice things on this platter (a few different types of mushrooms, 3 ears of corn, a few stalks of asparagus, and 2 small pieces of butternut squash) in addition to the usual lettuce (watercress, bok choy, napa cabbage), and broccolini. There were only 2 small pieces of silken tofu on the platter! It also came with a choice of noodles or rice. We ordered an additional tofu platter ($6) as we needed more protein and were served another 2 pieces of silken tofu, 2 pieces of fried tofu, and some tofu skin. If I were to have my dream vegetarian platter it would include more tofu from the start, a few vegetarian dumplings, and more butternut squash.

      2) Broths for the Shabu ($4): We ordered the Mushroom and the Thai Tom Yum. The mushroom was earthy but quite boring to cook the vegetables in. After trying the mushroom broth once, we switched over to (and stuck with) the Tom Yum side. This broth was nice. Relatively flavorful and spicy.

      3) Rice ($2): We ordered a side of rice which was $2 for about 1 cup. Seemed overpriced for the amount given.

      4) The Physical Space: Nice, LARGE. The lighting was a tad bit dark for my liking but overall they did a beautiful remodeling job.

      5) Service: The waitress was young and inexperienced. Kinda reminded me of my days as a waitress (I was well intentioned just not very skilled). She told us one of the broths on the menu was vegetarian when it was not and did not know if the "BBQ" sauce on the table was vegetarian or not. She was sweet though and was
      obviously trying her hardest.

      FInal Analysis: Would we rush back? No. Will we try them again in the future? Perhaps once they settle in a bit and hopefully make some slight "tweaks" to the menu.
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      My hubby and I prefer the vegetarian shabu at Swish Shabu in Fenway.

      1 Reply
      1. There's an additional gimmick in that they have a circulating conveyor belt for the vegetable hot pot items a la kaitenzushi. On your whim, you can pick an item off the belt to put into your pot.

        Judging from the menu, which was bilingual in English and Chinese, and the fact that the servers did not speak Japanese, I'm deducing that the place is run by Chinese, not Japanese. This is par for the course in Boston, so don't expect a shabu shabu experience that you might find in Japan. The emphasis is more on the selection of broths than the array of dipping sauces, and there are many ingredients that require extended cooking rather than the brief "shabu shabu" swishing that one associates with the Japanese type. Of course, as with other Japanese dishes like ramen, the concept of shabu shabu was imported from China, so one could think of this as going even further back to its roots. But I think there's more room for an authentic Japanese version of shabu shabu in Boston.

        So, basing my opinions on the premise that this is really a Chinese hot pot place... The setup with the broths is that you get two kinds per pot, and the default pair, chicken and vegetarian, are free. The other broths cost extra. We opted for the default chicken and the house special seafood broth. The chicken was innocuous, devoid of interesting flavor notes. The seafood was also rather bland and simple. To draw a comparison, Little Q broths are much more complex and savory with their penchant for tossing in all sorts of herbs and spice nuggets in their broths. We ordered beef short ribs, the seafood combo platter, the mushroom platter, the tofu platter, and a few other veggie items. The freshness and quality were not bad overall, but some of the seafood items like the mussels were still a bit frozen inside, which made it harder to fish them out at the right time when they were done but not overcooked. You get a good amount of food for the price (esp. the mushrooms). I liked the tofu platter, which had an interesting selection of fresh and fried tofu, tofu skin, etc. but oddly there was a type of fish cake included, which could be a nasty surprise if you are vegan.

        The bottom line for me after one visit is that I would rather go to Little Q for the hot pot. I didn't try their sushi and izakaya items, so no opinions there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Edokko

          you the best, edo! i follow your lead.

          1. re: Edokko

            I went once, the staff are Cantonese speakers. We used a Groupon to get some cut-rate sushi, and I'd say it was just barely passable at that price. Fish was OK enough but rolls were mostly cucumber, rice was poor and nori was tough and chewy. No experience with the hot pot offerings but don't go for the sushi.