Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mitsu E Shabu Shabu - Fullerton

The weather's balmy. The sun attacks from above and below, heating the very ground you walk on. People are in flip flops, shorts and sunglasses. So what the hell am I doing sitting in front of a hot plate, cooking my own lunch over a steaming, gurgling vat of water?

Because I can.

Thanks to the wonders of A/C, you can just do about anything in spite of the climate outside. Indoor skiing in Dubai? No problem. Eating shabu shabu on a hot August day in Fullerton? No sweat...literally.

Moreover, the meal was cheap. At $8.40 per person for their lunch special, Mitsu E Shabu Shabu offers one of the lowest price tags I've seen anywhere for this, the Japanese version of hot pot.

And since what I pay for shabu shabu is inversely related to my enjoyment of it, this is well below my ten-dollar threshold of tolerance. Any more than that and the meal becomes less palatable, no matter how freezing cold it is outside or how well the meat is marbled.

The concept couldn't be simpler. When you order the lunch, a gentleman takes a frozen block of beef as massive as a boulder and seesaws it through the rotating blades of a meat slicer. After each pass and into his waiting palms, out comes prosciutto-thin slices of red. He lays it out piece-by-piece on a wide plate until the whole thing is covered in raw steak.

By the time it's presented, the cauldron of water in front of you will be at a rolling boil.

Along with a plate of vegetables and a bowl of rice, two types of dipping sauces are served. Most, if not all, of the flavor will come from these condiments.

Ponzu is a sour yuzu-based dip. To it, grated daikon pulp can be added for texture, which also changes its properties so that it clings onto the meat. Garlic milled to paste will add oomph. Diced green onion will do both.

Goma, a sesame seed-based sauce with a milky-caramel hue, is nutty and rich.

When you're ready, you take a whisper of meat and wave it around in the liquid with chopsticks. Because it's got the thickness of a playing card, it turns brown and opaque before your eyes.

Lift it out. Soak it in sauce. Eat with rice. Repeat.

The beef, cut across the grain, will melt in your mouth just as quickly as it cooks.

Just before you've exhausted the supply of rice in your bowl, deposit the udon noodles into the water to heat. Ladle out some of the now beef-flavored water. Season it with more garlic, green onion, and soy sauce. Before you know it, you have hot udon noodle soup.

Things to look forward to on this blog in winter? Shaved ice and frozen yogurt. What can I say; I like being a contrarian.

Mitsu E Shabu Shabu
(714) 871-9418‎
225 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Food Issue 2008 - Meal Deals For Our Recessionary Times
and
Michael's on Naples - Long Beach

25 Comments:

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I have always had trouble embracing Shabu Shabu. There is not much that a chef or restaurant can take credit for. Sliced raw meat, vegetables and you boil it. The credit goes to the farmers, I guess. I dunno, hard to call this type of eating "cuisine" and find the experience pretty over rated IMHO. I try not to eat at any restaurant where I can make the food myself. . And that doesn't mean it has to be fancy either. For Example. I always go to In N Out when I want a burger. Because I can't duplicate the textures and flavors. Pho also comes to mind. After I got done buying all the ingredients it cost over $22.00 and didn't taste nearly as good as the $5.00 bowl I get at my favorite place. Shabu Shabu can so easily be done at home without hardly any effort.

Elmo, you need to try Ambrosia in Santa Ana. Its in the ghotto part of Santa Ana on Main close to 17th.

I think it rivals Charlie Palmers. The cool thing is that you would never know it by the location. Wait until you see the decor and the private rooms. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I think you will be "floored".

I think its the closest thing I have had to a 5 star experience (food and service) in a long lime time.

Its not like these Newport Beach restaurants that want you to think they are 5 star just because they are expensive and because of the location (Mastero's Ocean Club comes to mind). This is the real deal and Chef Micheal is incredible.

I had this Foi Gras dish where they seared it, and placed it on top of grilled peaches that were drizzled with BBQ sauce (like on Texas ribs) and served with a side of corn cake creme brulee. It looked like a desert platter when it was plated, yet it was savory and you were supposed to make sure you got a piece of everything on your fork when putting it into your mouth.

They also did this Foi Gras Strawberry Shortcake that sounds so weird but totally was INSANE.

Its this kind of creativity that makes this place incredible. None of this ahi tartar towers, crabcakes, lobster bisque, chilled cold seafood appetizer platter, grilled artichokes, BS that is so overdone at all these fancy OC restaurants that is sooooo played out.

The beauty of this place is that the prices are very reasonable. Places in Newport charge 2 times more for stuff like this! And the building is the real deal. The put serious money into the construction of this place and the decor.

Their website is http://www.ocpavilion.com/

but the pictures don't do it justice.

I mean, when you go to a place like the Monarch Beach and the St Regis you expect a restaurant like Aqua. But when you are in the bario of Santa Ana, you would not expect a place like this. And thats what makes it so cool.

Ask your server for a tour of the place like I did and your jaw will drop!!!

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD,

Over a certain price, it makes more sense to do shabu shabu at home. Like you, when I usually eat shabu shabu, 90% of the time I do it myself.

But here's the one thing that always ends up happening: we end up with a lot of leftover ingredients that we have to race to finish before it spoils. By the third day of shabu shabu leftovers, it's agony.

I like this place because $8.40 is the right amount to pay -- no prep, no clean up, and we wash our hands clean afterwards. Also like I mentioned, I haven't seen shabu shabu (with this quality of meat) for cheaper anywhere else. If anyone has, let me know.

By the way, does anyone know of a Mongolian Hot Pot in OC? Ever since Little Sheep in Rowland Heights closed, I've been looking for a replacement.

I know of Mon Land, but that's too far.

I've not tried Ambrosia, but Gustavo has. His review raved about it despite the fact that it's owned by Mike Harrah (a frequent OC Weekly target). I take this to mean that it has to be realllllly good!

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Elmo,

Its INSANELY Good (Ambrosia).

Come on Elmo, you are not going to not try a great restaurant and not write about it because you write for the OC Weekly and their political views differ from that of the owner of Ambrosia, are you? Please say that will never happen!

Mike is criticized because he is a billionaire and OC Weekly is a liberal rag. Mike owns tons of property in Santa Ana and he is trying to develop it, clean it up. And maybe at cost to some people. He probably is going to displace some homeless, gang bangers, poor people, etc. And OC weekly loves to write about how these people that make money are the "devil".

But when it comes to food, we need to put politics aside. Politics taste like ass.

Ambrosia clearly looses money on its dining side. Location, location, location. Its in downtown Santa Ana!! They put over 30 million to build the place and it doesnt have the draw of Newport Beach.

The only people in the restaurant on the night I went was 1 other table and one large party in the dining room.

They lost money that night. But because the owner has deep pockets, they did not skip a beat. Fully staffed, everything was on the menu... no cutbacks on anything.

Regular owners would not do that. It is truly a dining experience. And if you are into food, and rave about places like Napa Rose and Charlie Palmers, you have to try a place that I feel surpasses those places and is less expensive.


its about the FOOD in my book.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD,

You completely misunderstood.

Politics bore me. I care about one thing only (at least for the purpose of what we're talking about here)...and that is food. I'll go anywhere, try anything, so long as it's good.

What I was saying was that Gustavo LOVED Ambrosia despite the fact that he rags on Mike Harrah, which means he put politics aside when it came to good food. That's all.

Where did you get the idea that I wasn't going to try Ambrosia for political reasons?

C'mon! Seriously, you should know me better than that! ;-)

Heck yeah, I'll try Ambrosia. In fact, I've been meaning to try it ever since Gustavo wrote about it.

Besides, have you forgotten that I wrote about and liked Original Mike's?

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Also, for those just tuning in, here is Gustavo's fabulously funny and rip-roarin' review of Ambrosia:

CLICK HERE TO LAUGH AND DROOL

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

"And maybe at cost to some people. He probably is going to displace some homeless, gang bangers, poor people, etc. "

yeah, I mean oh well..it's about fooooood. Let them eat cake!

Boy ..quite a "thread drift" away from shabu shabu.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Christoofat,

HAHA! Yep! So...anywayyyyys...let's get things back on track, shall we.

Anyone know where I can find Mongolian Hot Pot in Orange County?

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Haven't been here, but ...

http://www.foodieview.com/restaurant/hot-pot-city/westminster/100039/132766

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

arghh...
Hot Pot City
15606 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 531-5404

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger DanGarion said...

We were going to go to Blake's Place for lunch today, but I'm thinking on trying to convince my wife that we should get some Shabu Shabu. Only problem is she has to be in the mood for something outside of her normal food comfort zone.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Christoofat,

Excellent! Would you have any idea if they feature the yin-yang type of broths -- one side mild and the other riddled with Szechuan peppercorns, whole Chinese spices, dried berries and herbs?

Here's a post with nice pics from one of my favorites (Little Sheep). It's defunct in Rowland Heights, but apparently there is still one in San Diego.

Dan,

I think your wife will like this. Japanese hot pot (at least shabu shabu) is pretty accessible. It's Asian, but the flavors won't be foreign or weird. You're really just boiling beef in water and then dipping it in a citrus-spiked bowl of soy sauce. Most people will even tell you it's actually very bland. But this meal is as cheap as a plate of burger and fries at most sit-downs.

I'm looking forward to reading about your experience if you do end up going.

 
At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this place, whenever we can't agree on a restaurant we always compromise and come here. It's like comfort food, and you always know it's going to be good, very consistent no surprises. Good service, good meat & good prices. As a matter of fact, I think I'll go there tonight, thanks Elmo!

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger DanGarion said...

Elmo - Oh she's had Shabu before and she liked it (Koji's) but she is still picky when going out to outside the norm places, she's getting better though!

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

They do seem to be very consistent. Comfort food is right. Simple, uncomplicated, and most of all, satisfying.

Dan,

Ah I see now. I figured that you guys were pretty adventurous eaters (as us food bloggers always are).

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

I don't know if Mitsu E Shabu Shabu changed from the last time I ate it (it was quite a while ago), but I really didn't find it that good compared to other Shabu Shabu places.

I found the cuts of meat at Mitsu E Shabu Shabu not as good, and even the white rice too wet for me. I went when they opened, so maybe they cleaned up their act.

 
At 3:53 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

I like the Chinese hot pot a lot. I don't have a lot of experience with shabu shabu. We had it once, and didn't enjoy it very much because, like you, a high price can hinder our enjoyment of things. We do love Japanese food, though, so we might give it another chance. What you had does sound good, and I love ponzu sauce.

 
At 7:26 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

El

re: Hot Pot City
Not sure, as I haven't been there yet. Haven't really had a hot pot meal, sounds kind of interesting!
Has anyone had shabu shabu at California Shabu Shabu at Garfield & Brookhurst in Fountain Valley? That's my only experience with that type food, and it was "ok" but a bit overpriced for what you end up getting. The normal lunch servings always left me hungry.

 
At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Marvin said...

I tend to sweat in any hot pot joint no matter how cool the A/C is--I just get so worked up I guess. One of my favorite things about hot pot joints are the noodles at the end. It took me a while to figure out that your supposed to do noodles last (I used to just throw everything in at once).

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Dan,

It was my first time at Mitsu, but I can tell you it's vastly better than other shabu shabu places I've been to (particularly one I will not name in a city that rhymes with Smurvine). The beef was of high quality -- better than what I usually buy frozen at Freshia. And the rice, well, it was just rice. But it wasn't overcooked and mushy. Perfect for absorbing the beef-sauce-run-off.

Juliet,

Shabu shabu is the novice level hot pot. Chinese or Mongolian hot pot is probably the most advanced isn't it? Stuff like tripe, innards, and all the scary scraps that they serve raw on the plate. And then there's that hell broth you cook it in! Yeah...I want some!

Christoofat,

Sorry...I should read things more carefully. I completely missed the part when you said you hadn't tried it yet. That's apparently how misunderstandings tend to happen on this thread. HAHAHA!

Marvin,

I'm a sweater too. Except hot sauce or chili must be involved. I don't even have to eat it. It just needs to be in the vicinity.

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

Elmo, your words can make a summer day into a frigid blizzard. Even I want to go out and have ice cream in the winter b/c of your posts. Now I want to go have grilled meat and it is as humid as sauna over here.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

P.E.,

Thanks! Back at ya! The best part of being a contrarian is when people agree with me!

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger Jay said...

I feel as though I have to defend a good quality shabu shabu a bit here. To me Shabu Shabu is about the sauces first... they must be really good since that's where most of your flavor is coming from and at plenty of places, they suck. However, often overlooked (and almost never perfected) is the bowl of white rice that should accompany it. A nice lightly cooked piece of black pork and/or quality beef, dipped in delicious ponzu and then consumed over a wonderful bowl of (Shinsengumi's) PEREFCTLY cooked rice is in my opinion one of the most beautiful and simplistic dining indulgances... even if it's just "boiled meat" as one of my friends always says.

 
At 6:59 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Jay,

Well put! I've actually heard of places which actually make the sauces for you, on the spot. Now that's something I'd be willing to fork over more than $10 for!

 
At 8:05 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

PLEASE tell me where you had shabu shabu and they made the sauces in front of you! I would fly great distances to dine at a place like that. My husband and I are shabu shabu addicts and that place sounds amazing! Please share your experience and location with us!

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Glenn,

Sorry for the late reply. I didn't see your comment until now. Unfortunately I saw the post about the shabu shabu place that made its own goma a while back, and now I can't remember where I found it. If I see it again, I'll let you know.

 

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