Caroline Dragonetti

On Friday night I ventured out into Allston for Hot Pot at Shabu-Zen. Getting to the restaurant was easy, as I decided it would be quicker (and warmer) to take an Uber. When my friend and I arrived at the restaurant it was just starting to get busy. We were seated at a booth with a built-in stove top placed between us. Since we had both been to Shabu-Zen several times before we knew what type of beef we wanted to order (we shied away from the $80 wagyu.) In addition to ordering a jumbo platter of the most budget friendly beef, we picked out several side dishes: whole shrimp, shrimp paste (which was new to me,) assorted mushrooms, carrots, baby bok choy, and vermicelli and udon noodles. We opted for a spicy szechuan broth on one side of the pot and chicken broth on the other side. Within minutes of arriving at the table, the pot began to froth and bubble. Shortly after, our waiter delivered us our beef and side dishes. We had learned from our previous experiences at the restaurant that we needed to put the vegetables that took longest to cook in the pot first, namely corn and carrots. We were also given soy sauce, minced garlic, scallions, crushed peppers, and a salty paste to mix together. This became a flavorful dipping sauce that paired well with everything we cooked in the pot. While we were cooking and talking, our waiter delivered the shrimp paste. It was presented as a mound with bits of recognizable shrimp which the waiter broke up with a spatula and dropped directly into the pot. I’d never seen or tasted shrimp paste before, and though I enjoyed it, I still prefer the whole shrimp. By the end of the meal, I had burnt my tongue countless times and made a mess of the table. I apologized to the waiter when he came to clear our dishes, and he was kind enough to reassure me that he has seen much worse. After waiting weeks to go to Shabu-Zen I was not disappointed. Not only was the food delicious, but I also appreciate that the meal is so personalized and that it encourages you to keep a conversation with the person that you’re sharing the pot with. For anyone that hasn’t been to Shabu-Zen or a hot pot restaurant I highly recommend it!

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