Friday, June 1, 2012

Shabu Shabu, Korean BBQ, Karaoke and Virtual Golf????

Well, this is a bit confusing. The restaurant is called 'Shabu Shabu', which is essentially Japanese hot pot, but this restaurant is 100% Korean, from the proprietors to the food. But the culture clash is not what stands out the most about this restaurant; the weirdest/coolest selling point of the restaurant is their simulation golf and karaoke entertainment built into the restaurant. 

...Yep, you read that right.

So, while we know that you can stay sufficiently entertained throughout your meal, how does the food fare?

Actually, I lied. I don't think you can eat, play golf and karaoke at the same time. Not only is it physiologically impossible (prove me wrong, I dare you), the simulation golf and karaoke are in separate private rooms, none of which have accommodations for dining. But hey, how many restaurants have any form of entertainment, let alone two? Chew on that, why dontcha.

Speaking of chewing, Shabu Shabu is a very meat-centric restaurant. Their specialty seems to be various communal hot pots and stews, as well as Korean BBQ. They also serve traditional Korean dishes, such as bibimbap and ttokbokki in personal portions. 

Accessibility - Grade: C+
Um. Since this was more of a big family outing, we were driven there. But I can tell you for certain that you can't walk it from a metro. Well, you can probably try walking from Vendome, but it would probably take a while. They do have parking, though, so if you own a car, you can just drive on over.

Service - Grade: B+
Since we went with someone who was familiar with the owner, we might have gotten preferential treatment. Still, objectively speaking, the service was quite good. The waitresses were super polite; if you thank them, they'll thank you back. I'm not even kidding. They didn't chat with us, but the service was warm and personal regardless. 

Food - Grade: B
Korean food! I haven't had it in soooo long. Again. This always happens... *sigh*

Banchan - kimchi

As with most Korean restaurants, we started with the typical appetizers - or banchan. This particular set consisted of kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), the bean sprout salad, seaweed salad, and potato cubes. Everything tasted pretty standard and were probably store-bought. I wasn't too fond of their kimchi, which I found too salty and not sour enough. It was also bland, like it hadn't been fermented enough. (There was only one Korean restaurant I've visited that fermented their own kimchi, which was ***ABSOLUTE PERFECTION***, but they were unfortunately closed down. And I've been crying rivers ever since.)

Vegetable Pajeon
We ordered two types of pajeon (Korean pancake), since we were a big group. One was the vegetable pajeon and the other was the seafood pajeon. I personally preferred the seafood one, which contained juicy chunks of squid and mussels. The pancake itself was cooked to a perfect crisp on the outside, sealing the flavour in the soft and chewy center. They were very generous with the dough too, since the pancakes were quite thick.

Doboo Kimchi
We also ordered the doboo kimchi, an interesting side dish that consists of sautéed kimchi and sliced pork accompanied by blocks of uncooked tofu. Interestingly enough, the kimchi in this dish is much more flavourful than the one served with the banchan. The kimchi is well-fermented, since the flavours had seeped into even the thickest parts of the cabbage stems. The saltiness and sourness were also well-balanced.

Apparently you're supposed to scoop the kimchi and pork onto the tofu and eat it all together, which works pretty well. The intense taste and sharp tang of the kimchi is dulled a bit by the mildness of the tofu. For a side dish, it's pretty filling, though. Which is unsurprising, since tofu itself is pretty filling; combine it with kimchi and pork, both of which are quite heavy, and you practically have a meal.

Bulgogi, uncooked
We ordered a bulgogi BBQ, which consists of slices of beef marinated in a sweet soy sauce. This was probably one of the better bulgogi that I've had, simply because the meat was very well-marinated. The sweetness of the soy sauce had been thoroughly soaked up by the beef so that even the thickest piece of meat still retained its sweet flavour.

Sizzling meat, mmmm...
Aaah. The sweet sound of sizzling meat, of the first 'shhhhh' when the meat hits the barbecue, as if it were trying to lull you into a state of meat-induced bliss. Which was pretty much what I was in by the end of the meal. The advantage of cooking your own bulgogi is that you can control exactly how you want your meat cooked. Too often I've encountered bulgogi cooked to the point where it had shrivelled in upon itself in fear and begun morphing into leather.

Don't forget the veggies!

Luckily, we were with a seasoned barbecuer. The meat was cooked to a perfect juicy texture, with each bite bursting forth with sweet flavour. Word to the wise: eat it while its hot! Cold bulgogi is sad and flaky bulgogi. The vegetables were either there to add flavouring to the meat, or to ease your guilty conscience. :P

Steamed egg with seafood
I thought this dish was alright, but nothing particularly special. It might be because I've been eating steamed egg since I was a little kid. The egg was tender and lightly salted, with sporadic pieces of seafood tossed in. Try mixing it up with rice; that was my equivalent of mac'n'cheese when I was a kid. Or maybe it's the Chinese equivalent of mac'n'cheese?

Spicy chicken pot
We ordered two hot pots, one being the Sukiyaki and the other the Spicy Chicken pot. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the Sukiyaki, but it was a sweet bulgogi stew with japchae noodles and vegetables. The second pot was a spicy pot of chicken with potatoes, carrots and leek.

As you can see, they actually give you huge chunks of a whole chicken with the stew, so if you're a fan of chicken, then this is the pot for you. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a chicken person, at least not in stews. The broth itself was quite good; it was spicier than I expected, with an undercurrent of sweetness. However, I thought the chicken chunks were cut too thick and didn't soak the broth up enough. Also, chicken is just too lean, and combined with the starchiness of the potato, it made the stew ironically dry. Also, don't overcook this! We did, and the potatoes ended up melting, so the stew became a big vat of starch.

The beef stew was better, in my opinion. There were no potato chunks, so the soup was clearer and lighter. However, I did find it a bit too sweet. I'd recommend trying the pork bone soup (gamja tang) or the spicy beef stew (yukgaejang).

There were a few other items we ordered that I didn't snap photos of, including a pork BBQ (samgyeopsal). Honestly, I'd recommend any of their BBQs, since, again, their meats are very well-marinated.

Note: Karaoke
While we didn't try the virtual golf, we did hang around the karaoke room for a while. On the upside, it's a really nice private room with leather couches and a huge sound system. On the downside, it's right next to the bathroom. And you can definitely tell by the smell.
The songlist is a little outdated and mostly Korean, but you'll definitely be able to find recognizable English songs. And when we went, it was free (probably because we ordered so much food), and it's a great note to end a family gathering on (hah! See what I did there?). 

Price - $$
I didn't get to see the final bill, but I did check out their menu. Most of their personal-sized main dishes are around $10, and their shabu shabu pots are around $18. The large communal stews we ordered, which are apparently for 3 people each, were around $35. A BBQ is around $15. Honestly, this is probably one of the cheaper Korean restaurants I've been to.

Final Grade: B
I definitely liked their BBQs. The stews weren't to my taste, but I think that's just personal taste. I'd definitely want to come back to try their other items, like their pork bone stew, and some of their main dishes. The banchan is still disappointingly generic, but the entertainment here is anything but. So the next time you're in the mood for some very reasonably-priced Korean food, a round of virtual golf and some karaoke, definitely check Shabu Shabu out!
...I dare you.

Shabu Shabu BBQ Corea
6180 St-Jacques, Montreal
(514) 489-2777
Shabu Shabu BBQ Corea on Urbanspoon


  1. This was not one of the ubiquitous all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurants dotting Koreatown. Food Truck Catering