The local Times had a review of Halu Shabu Shabu and Vin Pearl last week.
Not sure how long they'll leave that link up.
Halu Shabu Shabu is a traditional Japanese shabu shabu place. I can't stress that enough. It is not a Chinese hot pot place. No BBQed meats. No buffet of raw vegetables, meats, and sauces to make your own style of soup. You still have to go in to Berkeley to find that. Some, like me, will prefer the Chinese hot pot style (because I get to "cook") to the minimalist, focused Japanese shabu shabu style. But it can't be more traditional or higher in quality than Halu.
They serve Angus beef: $18 for 10 slices ("regular"), $22 for 15 slices ("large"), dinner prices. American Wagyu beef ($87 and $119) is available. The vegetable plate that accompanies it (tofu, noodles, cabbage, 1 mushroom) looked a little small, so we also ordered the optional tofu ($3 for a lot of tofu). The menu doesn't say it, but they told us when we ordered that sharing is an additional $5. They should just put that on the menu. You also get a rice bowl each and two sauces.
It was good, we liked it. The owner is very nice and will explain things if you have questions. The young servers seem a little overwhelmed and hurried if there's a crowd and don't say _anything_. That's a real mistake when the customer is (mistakenly) expecting a Chinese hot pot style place and is not familiar with Japanese style shabu shabu. Bottom line: high quality, reasonable prices, friendly owner, disengaged servers.
Vin Pearl calls itself "fine Vietnamese Cuisine". And it is. It's a beautiful place with prices to match. At lunch the smallish rice plate with higher than normal price just looks lost. It needs something more on the plate. And $9 pho. This menu badly needs an overhaul before it's too late. Bottom line: fancy place, good food, small portions, high prices.
Hey, susancinsf. Next time you meet your son in the tri-valley area try Sai's in Livermore. It's a small, unpretentious Vietnamese place. Springtown exit, on the north side of 580, right next to the freeway.