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Restaurants & Bars 7

Report on ShabuZen, Allston: Two thumbs up!

SSqwerty | Jan 4, 200801:19 PM

My husband and I ventured out to Allston this afternoon for a little ShabuShabu at the new ShabuZen. It was terrific! It's on Brighton in the old space that used to be a Brazilian cafeteria --Green something? Green Meadows? In any case, it's a great big place, expensively remodeled with plenty of light from big windows. Tables and chairs are comfy and there are acres of space at the counter(s), a bar room and a large banquet room. It's at least as big as the White Horse Tavern. There are several large screen TVs on the wall, plus some kind of (overly) loud rock music. Service was excellent, with the waitress explaining the whole process and making recommendations. They have beer, wine, smoothies and sake. Today it was 12 degrees out, so we each drank hot sake.

Quickly, we discovered that lunch is the time to go since the food is cheaper than at dinner. I had the prime beef ($12.95 as opposed to $18.95 at dinner) and my husband had the pork ($7.95). Two diners get their pick of two broths: he had the house broth (pork) and I had a hot Thai. The broths were the only weak link, without much flavor, but once they were heated up they were adequate to the task. I also had a seaweed salad to start and it was DELICIOUS. (Wish I knew how to make that at home.)

Along with the broth you get little plates of condiments, including two types of chilis hot enough to melt your nose, chopped raw garlic (which confirmed for me, anyway, that this is a Korean-owned establishment) a small bowl of soy sauce and finely chopped scallion. You get your choice of noodles or rice --he had the rice and I ordered the glass noodles-- and they bring each diner a plate heaped with yummy vegetables to poach in the broth: carrot and broccoli, Napa cabbage leaves, mushroom, tomato and fresh corn, watercress, among others. So that's the drill: Place your meat of choice in the hot broth, plus some noodles, plus a little bit of the vegs at a time, take a sip of beer or sake and by the time you put down your glass you're ready for the cooked bite to be swished around in the noodles, soy sauce and condiments. What could be better?

Portions were MORE than adequate, which isn't always the case when you order prime beef. Dessert was the surprise of the day: we ordered something called a "green tea moshi" --an oreo-sized pastry with a marzipan-like exterior filled with green tea ice cream. It more or less explodes in your mouth. It was so good we ordered another one in red bean paste flavor. Amazing, though not as good as the green tea one.

In all, it was the best shabushabu I've had in a really long time, and better than any I had in New York during the 25 years I lived there. After eating and drinking everything we could possibly think of, and hauling ourselves, groaning, from our booth, the check came to $40 something. Totally brilliant for the amount of food we consumed, and a good reason why we'll be back there again soon for another unhurried but totally delightful lunch.

Allston restaurants are a hit or miss affair, but this one is a total hit. As the neighborhood improves for eating, it's obviously drawing a better sort of restaurant --second locations for places downtown lodged in expensive real estate. Can "Troquet, Allston" be far behind?

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