Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu

Ever the culinary adventurer, I had been reading about a Chinese restaurant near Rockville town center that serves a peculiar dish called Shabu Shabu. Apparently its so good you have to say it twice. So Shabu Shabu is not actually Chinese, it’s Japanese but Bob’s 88 Shabu Shabu (the full name of the place) is indeed a Chinese restaurant. The dish and its compelling accoutrement has flourished into its own sub-cuisine in China, much the same way Tex Mex has here in the US.

Confused? Well wait till you try the stuff. Shabu Shabu is like a cross between a hot pot, fondue and Mongolian Barbecue. Large platters of raw meat, vegetables, fish balls, noodles, an egg and various elective add-ins like dumplings and meatballs are brought to your table with a bubbling cauldron of broth, and placed on an induction burner which is built into the table in front of you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to cook the raw meat and electives in the broth, dip into one of the myriad of dipping sauces available, then create a delectable egg drop soup with the leftovers. So, Steven and I made a visit.

Steven was pissed. He hates to cook and this was definitely cooking. It didn’t help that we were the only non-Asians in the place and we had NO IDEA what we were doing. Thankfully one of the servers came to our rescue as we were clearly doing it wrong. The more we got into it, though, the more fun he had, and when he realized that he was making a really yummy soup, he was happy again.

You get two choices of broth, spicy or not spicy. I chose the spicy broth. A mistake I think. It was spiked with chili oil, a whole star anise nut and goji berries (a Tibetan mountain berry). It was great for the fondue portion of the meal, but too intense for an egg drop soup. Steven got the “not spicy” broth, which starts out rather wan, but as you add meats and veggies the broth takes on the various flavors so that by the time you are ready to add the egg, you have a fantastic flavored soup.

We both ordered combination platters, mine with shrimp and pork, Steven’s with shrimp and beef. Next time I would skip the shrimp. Full unshelled head-on shrimp arrive at your table and are just a bother to deal with once you have them cooked. They were too damn hot to handle and when I took the head off of one of mine, shrimp juice and broth shot all over my shirt like a miniature fire hose. At least that made the staff happy, and I’m a good sport, proudly displaying my now ruined shirt to them as they all hunched in a corner and tried not to laugh and point directly at me.

We shared a plate of chicken fried rice, which, while not out of the ordinary, was exactly what chicken fried rice should be. Fresh and hot, brimming with chicken and frozen vegetables, and at $6.95 a real bargain. Bob has another place, too. Bob’s 66 Noodle House. Based on our experience with Shabu Shabu, I think we will be trying Bob’s noodles very soon.

Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu
316 N. Washington St Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 294-5888

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