It always makes me happy when I see an empty location in a strip mall get filled with a new restaurant.
The inside of the restaurant looks modern and slick. You can see the interior on the website.
The first time my wife and I went, they were only open for a few days. The servers seemed enthusiastic but not very well organized.
We asked the server what they recommended and they suggested we order a large 2 item combination to share. We chose the choice angus ribeye and salmon. They brought out two plates of vegetables and gave us very little instructions on how to dine shabu shabu (so, if you've never been to a shabu shabu, you'll be up the creek). Your eating utensils are stainless steel (I believe) chop sticks, so if you're not a genius with them (they're pretty slick), it may be problematic. The servers seem like they were born in the States but didn't pick up on our lack of skill using stainless steel chopsticks. They didn't offer us a fork when they saw us struggling. Maybe it's a cultural thing not to offer someone an alternative eating implement. Anyhow, we asked if they had it, and they did give us a fork.
Now, onto the food. The portions are fine, if not pricy. I think they're trying to pay for the dozens of induction burners they're using and shiny decor. The beef was good, nothing special. (We didn't order the prime beef or the wagyu though. The wagyu beef is 45-68 dollars per serving.) The salmon had a somewhat strong fish odor (but not to the point where I'd send it back). They served it with a peanut sauce and some soy based sauce. The sauces were just okay. They also offer minced garlic, a few other condiments like togarashi, plain soy sauce, and chili oil The manic... I mean, enthusiastic, server asked if I "liked it spicy." I said, "yes," so he came over with a dropper with this fluid, and I dropped a few drops into each of my sauces. I love heat, but this was probably a capsaicin extract and shouldn't really be added in such large quantities. I think he should have explained what it was he was offering first. I would've turned him down but he zipped in and zipped out. It basically ruined the sauces and chemically burnt my tongue.
Set up wise, they have a few tables and a bar with individual pots. We were sat down at one of the tables. We each had our own induction burner and bowl, but the awkward table set up made it difficult to share the meat platter (i.e. the tables needed a common area) without risking burning yourself.
When we were done with the meats and we had a lovely broth and some udon noodles to finish the meal, it seemed like a no-brainer for them to bring a bowl that you could ladle the broth into a vessel closer to you (since the pot was super hot and you couldn't move it right under you." We had to ask, instead of the server anticipating the need. We also had to ask for spoons. To me, it was almost like they didn't know how to dine shabu-shabu.
When we got the bill, we see they added an additional fee for a second plate of vegetables for my wife. This wasn't mentioned on the menu or by the server and I suppose I could've spoken up, but I felt it was fair.
Okay, my wife and I figured the relatively new opening of the restaurant lead to some of the lack of smoothness to the service. So, we went back last night for a second try.
OH MY GOODNESS.... talk about a totally different experience... and not in a good way. The place was empty, and I mean empty...cricket chirping empty. It was around 730pm. We came in and they said "sorry, you can't sit at the tables, they're for parties of 3 or more, so you have to sit at the bar." I told them we sat at the table the first time, and the young lady said "Oh, this is a new policy." Okay, I can understand why they would want to do that, but still, the restaurant was empty. STRIKE 1. So, we sat down at the bar. We ordered again a large 2 item combo (except shrimp instead of salmon). This time, the server mentioned that "there will be a fee for the second plate of vegetables." We said okay. They must've received feedback. We then each opened our hot pots and started to season the water (which just had a slice of seaweed in it). The server then said "oh, you can't use 2 pots since you just ordered one entree (even though we ordered 2 vegetable servings). That's our new policy." STRIKE TWO. I'm thinking, you're sitting side by side each other, the induction burners are inset into the table and not easily accessed by the person next to you to swish their own meats. STRIKE 2. I then asked how much it would cost to have the second pot, and they said "8 dollars." Well, STRIKE 3 because that's a rip off for essentially boiling water. We stood up and walked out. They didn't say a thing. By the way, we were still the only patrons in the restaurant.
Unless this place works on their customer service, I give this place 6 months. I think I'll be going to Gyushintei Shabu Shabu when I want this style of dining in Torrance. My only regret was not giving them feedback before we got up and left. Being told "oh, this is a our new policy" really sounded to me like when you play a game with a small child and they make up new rules on the spot to suit their needs. Again, I found it really off-putting. I plan on writing the restaurant.
King Shabu Shabu
3525 Pacific Coast Highway
Gyushintei Shabu Shabu
24631 Crenshaw Blvd. #N
Torrance, CA 90505
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