Recently a few foodies and myself traveled to Seattle for a foodie day trip. Our drive was centred around a media dinner at “Crab King” in Bellevue. They had reached out to Andrew of @eatwithmao, inviting him to gather a few friends to try their adaptation of Japanese style hot pot: shabu-shabu. The term
“shabu-shabu” is onomatopoeic, it comes from the sound of ingredients as they are stirred in the cooking pot and dipped into sauces.
When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
Located in an expansive outdoor/indoor mall, it was hard for us to find. After a few laps around the complex by car, we did end up parking and hoofing it there by foot. The distance walked would later prove to be helpful, as we left the restaurant stuffed full, with the need to “walk it off”.
The restaurant was kept dark, it and the loud talking gives the place a more jovial and celebratory vibe. The shades separating each tables gives you the feeling of being within your own cubicle. Thus giving this quick to fill restaurant some privacy between diners as the night wore on.
We were seated in the centre of it all. It was a spacious table, able to sit six, offering our four plenty of elbow room. However, the heating plate was not centred between each cushioned seat. It was installed towards one end, so that the two furthest from the pot couldn’t participate in the cooking portion. Thus they would constantly need to be fed, to the chagrin to those having to do the extra work.
Despite the extra ventilation above each heating plate and table, the restaurant got smokey and its temperature increased fast. With the added smoke billowing in your face, things do get sweaty, with lack of air circulation. Great for a cold day, uncomfortable for an extended eating period.
Before we even sat down the table was preset with appetizers, dipping sauces, and all the necessary utensils to dig on in. This was a nice treat to walk up to. A trio of appetizers before we even looked at the menu, the perfect nibbles to tide us over until our full hot pot serving came. Not that it really takes all that long to come, all of it is raw after all. Crispy tempura shrimp, smokey mackerel, and refreshing ahi tuna chunks.
We indulged in their all you can eat menu at $35 per person. If one person wants to eat all they can, their entire party is required to do so as well. All within their 1.5 hour time limit. Be warned there is a 20% service charge for parties greater than five and any leftovers you order and do not finish, you will be charged an addition $15 per table. This is to discourage over ordering and food wasting, because despite having to pay a leftover fee, you cannot take any of it home.
To begin, you choose between their regular plain broth or their miso spicy broth, to boil and cook your thinly sliced meat and veggies in. We went with the former, which made for a great soup at the end. After all the simmering ingredients are added to the pot, throughout the meal. Most people forget about that, but when having hot pot I make sure to save some room at the end to sip this most tasty soup.
For ingredients your choices include premium cuts of meat, thin sliced and rolled up on black lacquered dishes. Wagyu strip loom, USDA prime tri tip, Wagyu chuck roll, and Premium pork. Each was tender, the best having a little more fat, for a little more chew to sink your teeth in to.
For seafood, the selection includes shrimp and rockfish tsumire, squid, mussels, and oysters. The tsumire is paste served in a half bamboo shell. You scrape bits of it into the pot and they boil up into solid “meat balls”. These were my favourite. I also liked the rubbery chomp of the squid, but could have done without the extra jaw ache from the mussels and some of the largest oysters I have ever seen. We kept this serving to just the one.
Surprisingly, you don’t get any crab with the set, given the name of the restaurant you would assume that would be the case. In order to get crab you have to pay extra. King crab for $59 per pound in your shabu shabu and Dungeness crab as one of their specialty dishes for $58.
The full assembly of the vegetable combination includes lettuce, Napa cabbage, broccoli, potato, taro, enoki mushroom, shiitake mushroom, chrysanthemum greens, seaweed, tofu, udon, and clear noodle. During the second round we picked and choose, going for more enoki and plenty of noodle to help soak up all that flavourful broth.
I found the sesame sauce and ponzu dipping sauces helpful in adding flavour and mixing things up, but they were a still a little to light for my liking. Whereas I asked for and was looking for more punch and salt, like from soya sauce or a richer satay sauce. However, neither are typical in Japanese shabu shabu.
As for our hot pot tools, I liked the agility the over sized tweezers provided. They made it easy to pick up and control how long the meat cooked for. But it was harder to scoop the noodles with, or get more than one thing at a time using.
For dessert they offer small bites and light snacks to help cleanse the pallet with. Either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a thumb-sized mung bean cake. We had the latter given it was unique to them. It had a nice powdery texture, chalky as it coats your mouth and melt to its red bean centre.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great spot to hang out with friends and eat until your heart’s content. Delicious Chinese style Japanese shabu shabu featuring premium ingredients. I am not familiar with the area, but know there at least isn’t anything like it in the mall. Don’t deny your cravings.
1200 156th Ave NE, Bellevue WA, 98007