Friday, January 22, 2016

japanese/hotpot: i recommend HELLO KITTY SHABU

No. 17, Alley 27, Lane 216, ZhongXiao E.   Rd, Sec. 4

MRT: Zhongxiao/ Dunhua

website: Hello Kitty Shabu FB page

hours: 11:30AM - 10PM

$$ (about NT$500-700 per person)

Kid friendliness: booster seats available

Visit reviewed: 2/20/2016

Before my childhood friend Jenny even got to Taipei, she messaged me from LA, "Can we go to Hello Kitty Shabu?" And being the good host, friend and curious food blogger, I said, "Of course!" A reservation and few days later, we found ourselves wandering the alleys near Zhongxiao near Lane 216 looking for it.

Once you get closer, the glow of Hello Kitty's face beckons and a lifesized Hello Kitty greets you at the door, ready for selfies (also in that alley, NCIS Sushi, Hoshina udon and a new branch of dessert spot Monteur Cafe).

The inside decor seems to be casual Japanese, with lots of small tables for individual hotpot and a side area with tatami-style, lower seating for bigger groups. 

Reservations at Hello Kitty Shabu Shabu are limited to one and half hours, and when we arrived at 5:17pm, we were a little late. In Taipei, busy restaurants will usually tell you, you have a ten minute grace period before you potentially lose your table, i.e. If people are waiting there. Sometimes the restaurant will call you, or if you call them sometimes they'll be nice enough to hold it for you. I didn't call and they didn't call us, so when we told them our reservation was for 5pm, the girl told us we were late and it seemed like she was going to tell us we lost the table. But since the restaurant wasn't full and there weren't people in line, I emphasized that my friend had flown all the way from LA to eat Hello Kitty hotpot, and after some discussion between her and another server, they directed us to a small table in the back. 

Tables for four are divided with a removable divider, which is smart for the restaurant but crowded for us. Even though no one sat next to us, you can see there isn't a lot of space, so you have to do some Tetris-like maneuvering to make everything fit with your hotpot, once your veggies, meat and steamed egg comes. 

Hello Kitty Shabu offers individual yuan yang hotspots, so you pick two broths out of four choices- regular kombu, pork bone broth, tomato or Mala. Then you choose your meat- there's three kinds of beef or pork available or chicken or seafood. Then you pick noodles or Hello Kitty shaped rice. Everyone gets their own veggies and fish cakes, and additional hello kitty-fied fish cakes are available to add on. 

There's also fried shrimp, chicken and croquettes to order on the side, and a colorful drink menu. 

Once you've ordered, let the photo ops begin!! (Haha the only reason you're here right?) The servers asked us if we were done taking photos before whisking away the bow adorned wooden lids.

Complimentary pre-meal amuse bouche- I think it was konjac- but I found it inedible and tasteless.. 

I ended up choosing the pork broth and tomato. Next time I would skip tomato (it intensified when cooking) and choose the plainer kombu or go for spicy Mala. 

Additional fish cakes we added filled with mentaiko. You can also pick cheese filled. (NT$160 for 2)

The vegetables are quite bountiful- with chinese cabbage, cabbage, various mushrooms, corn, one piece of pumpkin, broccoli, taro and some tofu skin and fish cake.. And then topped with a Hello Kitty thing-- we think it was some sort of tofu soy thing with the HK face burned in, which actually gave it a smoky burned flavor that was kind of unpleasant. But oh, it makes for a cute photo. Lol. 

See how we barely managed to fit everything on the table, and it fits just so. I got the beef (NT$550) which wasn't as tender as the short rib (NT$650).

I loved this little apple bowl and cover with the spoon. I would maybe buy a set if they sold them there. The steamed egg inside was decent too. 

Of course most of you know how Shabu works, but in case you don't, you basically cook the meats and veggies in the hotpot until it's to your liking. You can dip in the sesame or soy sauce, but pork broth was actually quite flavorful already. 

Lots of chopped veggies at the bottom of the large bowl. Sometimes restaurants cheat and it's actually empty or raised inside, but I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty. 

Cooking and eating.. As for the mysterious Hello Kitty faced tofu, it was a spongy, mysterious bite and tasted a bit burnt from what I'm guessing is the char from imprinting the face onto the tofu. I took one bite and wasn't sure if I wanted to take another. 

Dessert at the end included in the set are a few bite sized, brown sugar mochi..

All in all, it wasn't a bad meal as shabu spots go. Would I recommend it? Sure, I'd come back with other Hello Kitty loving friends- I like how they give you a lot of veggies, broth options and steamed egg on the side. And if you're a Hello Kitty fan, then you kind of have to experience it for yourself. It's not as bling and overly cute like Hello Kitty Sweets (now Hello Kitty Kitchen) so now Hello Kitty fans have two places to choose from, three if you count Hello Kitty Bubble, four, if you count the Hello Kitty food souvenir shop next to Ice Monster I have to write up. I was surprised to see an older couple next to us eating (and chilling) who didn't appear to be Kitty fans, but maybe they just liked the food. Also there were empty seats in the restaurant during our hour and half so maybe they save spots for walk ins. It will be interesting to see if Hello Kitty Shabu becomes popular- on one hand, Taiwanese people love hotpot, especially in the winter time. On the other hand, because they loved hotpot, the hotpot game in Taipei is fierce- there's super cheap version and fancy, luxe versions, spicy mala, all you can eat, vegetarian only, herbal broth, the list goes on and on, and now, you can add Hello Kitty Shabu to it. 


Anonymous said...

Hi there, can you pls recommend any places that will be open during CNY eve & CNY?

Thank you.

AdrianTYC said...

This is so cute! Hope to try one day :)

Chubbypanda said...

I saw this place on a Taiwanese food show and have been meaning to try it.

Anonymous said...

"Complimentary pre-meal amuse bouche- I think it was konjac- but I found it inedible and tasteless.. "

If I'm not mistaken, I believe these are put into the soup before anything else :) you don't eat them as is.

Anonymous said...

Did you have to have a reservation before going? If so how did you do it?

TeamLavan said...

hi! how do you make reservations? thank you! :-)