It was six o’clock on a Thursday evening. South Orange County. I was looking for a good happy hour and a place to enjoy the football game. The only bad part about this experience was the lopsided game.
California Shabu Shabu it was. With two large bar sitting areas and a cozy dining area, it was a perfect choice. Right when I walked in, I knew I was in the right place, $3 Sapporo/Kirin pints and 80’s music. There was even a Ms. Pacman arcade machine! I had a couple beers in the dining area before moving over to the main bar sitting. I have never experienced something like this before, so I was a bit timid while staring at a large pot of boiling water and two bowls of sauce in front of me. I looked around and saw that everyone was having a good time, so it calmed my nerves. The waitress had impeccable timing on offering a refill on my beer. I thanked her and asked, “Um, what do I do?” She smiled and calmly explained how the whole system worked. It is very simple, you season the pot and the sauces to your liking, you order from the selection of meats (the prime rib was amazing!) or vegetable plate, then you shabu shabu (translation: swish swish)! I was skeptical at first, wondering how a raw piece of meat could be cooked in just a few seconds, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how the expertly cut thin slice turned to a perfect brown after a few swishes in the boiling water. I dipped the meat in each of my sauces, scooped up some rice with it, and savored the first bite. It was good, but it was missing something. I decided to become more adventurous. With the given vegetable plate, I began to season the boiling water with cabbage, carrots, and noodles. After a shot of soju, i tried the next slice of meat. I didn’t leave it in the water for as long, and took a little less rice, it was perfect.
Beyond just the good food and very reasonably priced drinks, I looked around again, not as timid as I was when I first walked in, and realized everyone was smiling. It was such a comfortable and social feel, I had finally found a happy spot for the perfect happy hour.
California Shabu Shabu – 801 Baker St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626