Many miles and years of history may separate some of the Asian cultures, but in Southern Nevada, as in most of this country, those borders bend pretty easily; many of our local sushi places are owned by Koreans, and one of our older Chinese restaurants is owned by Thais.
And so it is with Shabu Grill, which has a Japanese name but serves more in accordance with the traditions of Chinese hot pot, with a few Thai touches here and there.
In both hot pot and shabu-shabu, raw food is dipped into a hot liquid (the Japanese name translates to “swish”) to be cooked, and then finished with a sauce and/or condiments. The initial seasoning of the broth and flavors from the foods cooked in it also contribute to a soup.
So what separates the two styles? The differences are not monumental — and of course vary by region and chef — but come down mostly to a heartier broth in the Chinese version.
But back to Shabu Grill. Our server warned us off the “original” broth, the one I’d consider most Japanese, because he said it was “like water.” And so, for our divided pot, adorned with charcoal chimney but powered by gas, we chose the chicken and tomato/pork-bone broths.
And then the fun began. While it is possible to order off the menu at Shabu Grill, all-you-can-eat ($25.99) seemed the most popular option. It includes an appetizer tray of hot boiled peanuts — take note, Southerners — edamame and pickled daikon. You’re also asked if you would like chicken or lamb skewers (marinated and grilled ultra-tender), noodles or rice, and dessert.
For the rest of your meal you go to a wall of glass-doored refrigerators and choose little plates of food, clearly labeled and neatly arranged, to be cooked in the hot broth. There was plenty of seafood (a specialty of Shabu Grill), including snow crab legs, lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, fish, fish balls, fish tofu, and on and on. Beef, pork and lamb in various forms, thinly shaved and layered. An array of vegetables. Tofu and tofu skin. Pork gyoza, all sorts of noodles.
Another stop is the sauce station, where you fill little bowls with sauces including hoisin, peanut and red bean. And the condiment station, for crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, salt, vinegars and pretty much whatever else your little heart desires.
Like any other all-you-can-eat endeavor, whether you feel you got your money’s worth will depend in large part on how much you eat, and of what, with seafood-lovers making out better than vegetarians in that regard.
As for us, we found the tofu skin delectable in the tomato-based broth. Snow crab legs were sweet and delicate, pork belly lightly smoked (and surprisingly lean), beef about what we’d expect, mushrooms, broccoli florets and glass noodles particularly appealing when we moved on to soup.
Service was fine, a little bit of a communication problem notwithstanding, with glasses and broths refilled regularly and dishes cleared promptly.
Apparently Shabu Grill has had management/ownership changes, but we think the current one has the right idea. As to whether it’s shabu-shabu or hot pot, all that really matters is that it’s good.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com, and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
Shabu Grill, 1263 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd.; 702-998-7606
The essence: Shabu-shabu or hot pot, it’s great variety and good quality in a pleasant atmosphere.