Every Thursday I have dinner with one of my best friends from college. We started this tradition when we graduated in 2006 and I look forward to our catch up night every single week. While we have about a dozen restaurants in our regular rotation, this year we've ventured out to several new places together. Last week we headed to Spring Shabu-Shabu, a hot pot restaurant on Western Ave. in Brighton.
If you've never been to a hot pot place before, it's a very fun concept. You select a type of broth, which they bring right to your table. It cooks directly in front of you and you can send all kinds of things swimming in there - meat, seafood, veggies, noodles, dumplings and more. According to their website, "The term shabu-shabu is an onomatopoeia, which is derived from the 'swish-swish' sound made when the meat is quickly brushed back and forth through the broth to cook." I love that.
We arrived at 7:15pm and before I even got out of the car I could see there was a line out the door. We put our names in and they gave us a buzzer. Thankfully we only had to wait 15 minutes.
As we walked out of the lobby area and into the dining room I was blown away by how big the space is. There was steam billowing up from every table, making the room feel like a sauna. Due to all the moisture, the floor was crazy slippery!
We were seated at a table meant for four, giving us ample room to pile plates and bowls high with goodies.
We opened the menus to check out all the broth and protein choices.
I went with the vegetarian broth and my dinner date selected the pork bone broth. She also put in a request for an order of non-fatty beef (yes, you can also choose fatty beef).
With our broth orders in, we headed up to the buffet to pick out the things we'd cook. Nothing could prepare me for the multitude of choices! It reminded me of the first time I ever went to Fire + Ice in Harvard Square. The combination possibilities felt delightfully endless!
I was psyched when I got to the noodle section. There were so many options - all made fresh.
I wasn't able to take a photo of the sauce bar because my hands were so full I was worried I would drop something, but trust me, whatever your preference - soy sauce, peanut sauce, mustard - they have every persuasion. I would say there were easily 25 - 30 choices.
We walked back to our table, delicately balancing the plates and bowls we had loaded up with stuff. Our broth had arrived and was already starting to bubble. My bestie's beef also magically appeared while we were at the buffet.
She hand picked a mix of tofu, veggies, noodles and dumplings to plunge into the pork broth. I somehow missed the dumplings during my lap - a major oversight!
I created a vegetarian delight - tofu, soba noodles, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, onions and green beans.
As things started to cook, I fished them out and dunked them into soy sauce with scallions. The sauce was the best part of every bite. I wish I could have bottled it and taken it home. Unfortunately, the vegetarian broth really had no flavor at all, which was a bummer.
My dinner date said her pork broth was also pretty flavorless. She added, "I was worried to order the spicy broth, but next time I absolutely will."
When I asked how she was enjoying her selections, she replied, "The beef is the best part. The meat is really high quality and tastes delicious. My noodles are a bit gummy, which is disappointing." I also found that my soba noodles were gummy, no matter how long (or how little) I cooked them.
We sat for almost 90 minutes, talking as we swished our goodies around in our hot pots. It's easy to see why this type of dining experience is so popular. It really is fun to make your own creations. And the best part? The buffet is unlimited. You can go up as many times as you like.
To my surprise, Spring Shabu-Shabu offers dessert. They have a soft serve machine with two flavors - green tea and vanilla. There is a mountain of cones next to the machine, so you can swirl yourself a frozen treat as high as you can handle.
Though we were intrigued by the green tea soft serve, the restaurant is directly across the parking lot from a McDonald's and we decided to walk over and end the evening with McFlurries. What can I say? The M&M McFlurry is my kryptonite.
As we hugged goodbye and walked towards our cars, I noticed that my coat smelled rather strongly of hot pot. When I got home and changed into my pajamas, my sweater, skirt and leggings were also saturated with the hot pot smell. The next morning, when I left for work, I discovered my coat still clinging to the hot pot smell. Warning: whatever you wear to this restaurant will carry the scent for the next two or three days.
To see even more photos of Spring Shabu-Shabu check out this great review from Tiffany of Boston Foodies.
Have you ever been to a hot pot restaurant? Are there others in Boston I should try?