Having the exact right meal at the exact right time is one of life's greatest pleasures. I was fortunate enough to experience this once again on Friday night. We were supposed to be going to the Yankee game, but it was pouring and the husband and I decided to grab dinner on the upper east side first, and then make a decision about heading up to the stadium later on. As it turns out, the game was postponed and we'd made the right call by choosing to dine at one of our most favorite restaurants - Shabu-Shabu 70.
Located on East 70th Street, near Second Avenue, Shabu-Shabu 70 has been in business for 29 years and we've been dining there for 13 of those years. In all that time I have have never had a bad meal, in fact every one of them has been delightful ... and never more so than on Friday night. We arrived cold, wet and hungry and emerged hours later warm, happy and very well-fed.
For those unfamiliar with the dish, Shabu-Shabu is the Japanese version of a "hot-pot" wherein paper thin slices of beef, chicken and a variety of fresh, crisp vegetable are cooked in a steaming pot of broth at one's table. Its a fun and participatory meal! Yes, this is one of those places where you basically cook your own meal, and that's the fun part. The beef and chicken are of such exceptional quality, and so very thin, it takes almost no time for them to cook. You simply place them in the seasoned broth, wait a few minutes and then fish them out and run them through either the luscious sesame or tangy Ponzu dipping sauce before eating. The plate of vegetables that accompanies the meal is truly magnificent: fresh snow pea pods, large slices of onion, watercress, cabbage, shitake mushrooms, scallions to name but a few. As the meat and veggies cook, the broth develops into a wonderful soup - which will be put to glorious use when you add the fresh udon noodles at the end of the meal. It is traditional to finish the dish by poaching an egg in the resulting soup ... but we've never made it that far. We're always too full by the time we've fought over and slurped down the last noodle.
Shabu-shabu is a perfect meal for us because, as you well know, the husband prefers his beef still mooing ... and I need mine cooked. All the way cooked! Conversely, I like my veggies crisp while he prefers his dead. Shabu-shabu is a win-win for both of us.
We began the meal with an appetizer of tempura figs dipped into a mixture of green tea powder and sea salt. What an outstanding combination! It was a seasonal offering and one I'd be happy to have again. Shabu-Shabu also has a wonderful sushi bar - staffed by a personable and talented duo. We like to sit in the back of the restaurant, near the sushi bar, so we can watch these guys do their thing. Like the rest of the staff, they are incredibly warm and friendly. The owner, and much of the staff, always recognize us and treat us well - but the same courtesy and care is extended to all who dine here. I can't say enough good things about Shabu-Shabu 70. Its everything you'd want in a neighborhood restaurant and certainly worth the trip if it is not in your 'hood. I should know, I've been making the dreaded cross-town trip to dine here for more than a decade. I recommend it highly.
My only regret is that ... thinking I'd be at the ball game ... I didn't bring my camera. Next time for sure.
So, what's your favorite local, ethnic restaurant? Hungry Diva wants to know!