After the all the very helpful posts in the Shabu Shabu thread I posted a while back, I finally got around to checking one out. I compiled a list of restaurants purporting to have shabu shabu, and based on an acquaintence's suggestion, I tried Cafe Mum's in Japantown first.
First off, Cafe Mum's appears to be the hotel restaurant for the Miyako Inn. As such, the decor is slightly above budget quality, and used fold out tables for some of the seats. There was a distinct mustiness in the air. The only bright side we could see was the drop dead gorgeous barmaiden :)
My friend and I ordered the All You Can Eat shabu shabu plates for $19.99 each. I've never had all you can eat shabu shabu before, but I've been told it's quite common in Japan. The quality of the meat was extremely sub-par. It looked like it was in the fridge/freezer for a few days before we received it. Another weirdness was that the garlic (to add to the sauce) was a dark shade of green. After cooking, the meat didn't taste quite so bad as it looked, but a far, far cry from what we're used to in LA's Shabu Shabu house.
Another big negative was that the house water was atrocious. It might have been leftover dishwater but both of our glasses had some sort of foul tasting clear liquid which may have been/may not have been tap water. Ugh. I eventually ordered green tea and was greeted with a carafe of hot water and a tea bag of green tea. *sigh*.
All in all, a very disappointing trip. I'm attributing the poor quality of the meat to the fact it was all you can eat, but we honestly didn't feel like eating our fill. Another unfortunate side effect (which has never happened to me before, ever), was the effect on our um.. regularity.. after eating there. I don't know if it was the meat or the water, but both me and my friend reported serious discomfort for days afterwards. Ugh.
I'm hoping that this was just a bad night and we just got the meat right before they decide to throw it out, but considering the paucity of Shabu Shabu joints in the city I am hoping that the others on my list are better. I'm thinking of trying Ozumo next.
1800 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA