Monday, November 07, 2011

Balcony Grill & Bar - Irvine

When Balcony Grill & Bar first opened at Diamond Jamboree, it was eviscerated online. For one reason or another, no one seemed to like it much. But as the years passed, it somehow got in good with the cool kids. Before long it became a kind of a sleeper hit, winning loyalist and gaining a cult following. I’ve actually eaten there more than I have at Tokyo Table, more than Capital Seafood, and yes even more than 85°C.

And it’s not because I was necessarily rooting for the underdog. Their Happy Hour was decent with alcohol-appropriate bites they called “Drunk Munchies”, and their snow ice was unique to the area; but most of all, I went for their shabu shabu, which exists in at least a dozen different permutations, with flavored broths from ranging from a basic miso to a kimchi-inflected soup to something that I recall used either milk or cheese.

The meat was frozen into hair-curler tubes, stacked like logs and stored that way until someone ordered it. And almost everybody that came to Balcony did. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t sliced to order the way a proper shabu shabu restaurant would. The rib-eye reacted in the same way in the boiling liquid: it melted into tenderness. The veggies were basic. Cabbage. Baby bok choy. Carrots. And the cooking vessel was nothing more than a campfire pot heated by Sterno gel that sputtered blue flame. But I loved it.

It was priced right (somewhere in the ballpark of $13) and it satisfied me more than meals I’ve had at some shabu shabus, places where I’m liable to pay almost twice the price. And then, there’s the element of danger. Here, you’re really playing with fire, not an induction heater.

I heard from fellow forker Brekkie Fan that Balcony Grill & Bar was recently taken over by new ownership, and I hope they read this and resist changing their shabu shabu offering. There’s increased competition now with SWSH, an actual shabu shabu restaurant that opened right next door; but I hope they’re wise enough to leave well enough alone. Let Netflix be the cautionary tale. Stick with your pricing model and do not alienate your cult!

Balcony Grill & Bar
2710 Alton Pkwy. Ste. 215
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 387-0888

Jollibee - Anaheim


At 7:38 AM, Anonymous JB said...

Never dined here, but I did make out over drinks in that lounge alcove off to the right.....

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Drowning from the Firehose said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous calaris said...

Be interesting to see how they do with Boiling Point open nearby now. We went to Boiling Point 2 weeks ago and it was packed with the same target audience...

At 8:05 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Ha, for me it's BCD when I go to Diamond Jamboree. The meat certainly does look like "hair-curler tubes."

On a side note, the OC Weekly link doesn't work; "
" is included in the link before the http://....

A "supierb" post! That's from word verification.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Good times no matter how you slice it, then!


Agreed. I'm very curious about Boiling Point too. The target audience seems to be exactly people like me and you!


Thanks for the "supierb" comment! And also thanks for testing the OC Weekly link! Fixed now!

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great writing, awesome blog!

My name is Thomas Fisher and I am the President of Local Cuisine - - we'd like to talk to you about joining our panel of local food experts!

Check out the site and let me know what you think. Our contact info is on the website.



At 10:37 PM, Blogger edjusted said...

Have you tried their "snow" shaved ice? Pretty tasty.

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


YES! Love their shaved snow!


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