Monday, November 11, 2013

Miyabi Shabu Shabu & Grill - Irvine

If there’s anything to distinguish one shabu shabu joint from another, it’s certainly not in what you’re eating. What you get at one, you’ll get at the next. You’re boiling pieces of beef in plain hot water, after all. And there’s not much disparity between how one place shaves their beef on a deli slicer and how the next one does it. All will start with a frozen hunk of cattle, plane it down to gossamer sheets, and present it on a plate.

There may variations on that last part--some slice and then refreeze, but most won’t. No matter what, the beef will shrivel into the same tender piece of nothing once you wave it around in the water. And the sauces, goma, a peanut-buttery sesame sauce, and the ponzu, will taste exactly the same, as most places will just pour it from a factory-produced bottle.

The term "boilerplate" takes on new meaning here.

There will be hot drops, chili oil, or chili flakes. There will be scallions, grated garlic and daikon. There will be an arranged vegetable plate, which will contain leaves plucked from a head of Napa cabbage, a bunch of baby bok choy, or both. There will be some tofu, a tangle of udon, a bundle of enoki mushrooms that you will inevitably lose track of in the pot. And if there’s a carrot, whether or not it will be carved into the shape of a flower will be dependent on how long the place has been open. Newer joints will do it to impress.

Miyabi Shabu Shabu does that to its carrot. But it also does other things that so far manages to distinguish the restaurant from the pack.

It offers an amuse bouche of grated mountain potato and marinated shiitake dolloped with caviar for no other reason than because it can. And in the seafood shabu shabu offering, it includes actual snow crab legs along with deveined shrimp, thin slices of salmon sashimi, squeaky clams, and good quality scallops.

And then there’s probably the thing that people will use to judge whether they’re going to come back to spend their $20 plus dollars on a meal they have to cook themselves: the service. Miyabi’s service is currently very good. Water is topped off without having to ask. Broth levels are monitored and adjusted.

When it comes to shabu shabu, service is perhaps second to price in what you should look for in a meal that you can do just as well at home.

Miyabi Shabu Shabu & Grill
15435 Jeffrey Rd. Ste. 119
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 551-0200

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