Thursday, April 26, 2012

hotpot/japanese: i recommend BEN SHABU SHABU

No. 4, AnHe Rd, Sec. 1 安和路一段102巷4號
(02) 2784-8299

MRT:  DaAn 

hours: 11:30AM- 10PM


Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted 

Visit reviewed: 11/9/2011

When the weather gets cold, it's time for hotpot. I've never experience hotpot in so many ways until I moved to Taipei- one person solo hotpot, mala spicy hotpot, and the deluxe gourmet hotpot. How do you make hotpot luxurious? Ideally, with the setting, the ingredients and the service.

Last year, the owners of Ben Teppanyaki converted what used to be their private rooms next door into a whole new space, Ben Shabu Shabu, a high end hotpot restaurant offering premium ingredients for those willing to indulge. Set courses are available from NT$700-NT$3500, with various types of pork, lamb, sirloin, beef and seafood available.

In Taipei, shabu shabu joints are getting fancier and fancier with ambient lighting and decor. What I noticed about Ben Shabu Shabu was that there were larger tables for groups as well as tables for 2 for couples, with plenty of space between tables and sheer lavender draperies for some semi-privacy. Private rooms are also available downstairs.

As I sit down at the table, the shiny copper pot immediately reminds me of Orange Shabu Shabu, a popular Taipei hotpot joint that is also known for their luxe ingredients and environment. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you can't get a table at Orange. 

Live seafood in the tanks in the back, as well as bar seating for solo diners or those wanting a quick meal.

The sauces are available in dipping bowls - sesame, scallions, radishes, soy. chili, vinegar...

As part of the set course, a plentiful assortment of cabbage, mushrooms, tofu and squid balls to fill the pot- it's almost like a box from the farmer's market.

A few amuse bouches to start the meal- sea urchin over shredded mountain yam...

and okra with ikura and baby oyster. Eat the mini appetizers while you wait for the broth to boil and everything to cook.

Once the pot starts boiling, you can cook the meat. I prefer my veggies, especially the chinese cabbage on the softer side, but the bonus of shabu shabu is that you can do it the way that you like.

If you get a chance, scoop up this piece of tempura that has a surprise in the center, chewy mochi.

The event's menu is in Chinese only, but the regular menu has English as well.

The Triplet Wagyu Beef Course last year had both Australian and USDA Waygu beef, which had subtle differences. The USDA Waygu short rib might have been my favorite.

The waitress did some of the cooking for us and asked how well done we liked our beef. She recommended a 5, or medium rare, which was a little too pink inside out for me and a first for me at shabu shabu. But with shabu shabu, it's no problem, just put it back for a couple swishes.

Each nibble of wagyu is more velvety and tender than the next. With swirls of fat throughout the beef, it can't help but to be delicious. A very expensive kind of delicious at NT$3380 for the Triplet Wagyu Beef Course. For that price, there are quite a few other meals I'd probably choose first, but there are less extravagent options on the menu.

We were lucky to have the chef cook a few pieces for us, but usually you are dependent on your server's expertise.

The giant Emperor crab is plucked fresh from the tank and presented before it sacrifices its life for us...

The assorted seafood set includes emperor crab, fish, clams and lobster (NT$1280).

I still think it's mesmerizing to watch them clear out the contents of the hotpot and then transform the broth, a bowl of rice, egg, scallions, seaweed and crab roe into rich and creamy congee. Stirring, stirring and more stirring.

Usually everyone is so full by this point, but somehow the stomach makes room for another bowl. The sweet saltiness from the crab roe gives it that extra layer.

Definitely can't eat like this all the time, but when you can afford a splurge from the wallet and the stomach. Thanks to D for the invitation to tag along and to Ben Shabu Shabu for special lunch!

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