Restaurant Review: Shabu Works

Restaurant Review: Shabu Works
Photo by Jonathan Zhang/ UCSD Guardian

Recently, one of my friends celebrated his 21st birthday, meaning that he can now legally purchase alcohol instead of illegally smuggling it from Guadalajara, Mexico (not that he’s done that before). Anyway, I was unsure what to gift him. I was debating between some cute lingerie or an army of jumbo-sized Squishmallows, but I decided to treat him to a dinner meal fit for a king: shabu-shabu, or Japanese hot pot.

We opted to go to Shabu Works, a family-owned and operated restaurant in Mira Mesa. For the set price of $36.95, you can enjoy unlimited meats, sides, drinks, and a small bingsu (Korean shaved ice) bar. While the price is a bit steep, I do think the quality of the food justifies it. Guests have a two-hour limit to consume as much food as humanly possible. 

After an hour-long wait — enough to capture a whopping 32 Pokemon in Pokemon Go — we were finally shown our seats. If we waited any longer, my blood sugar levels would have reached world-record lows. Each table is allowed to select two soup bases out of their expansive offerings including tonkotsu pork bone, garlic miso tonkotsu, sukiyaki, spicy miso, spicy curry, Sichuan ma-la, the Mongolian, spicy Tokyo, tomato harvest, and vegan kombu. We chose the garlic miso tonkotsu, which had a rich porky essence and savory undertones of garlic, and the Sichuan ma-la, which was need-to-cut-my-tongue-off spicy and almost made me shed a tear (I’m too manly to cry). 

The meat selection was impressive, to say the least, and included Angus beef belly, top blade, US wagyu chuck tender, US wagyu bottom round, Angus chuck eye, premium eye round, NZ lamb shoulder, premium pork belly, natural pork collar, and natural chicken breast. The quality of the meat was unmatched, better than anything I’ve ever had at a hot pot establishment. Additionally, the marbling on certain cuts like the wagyu was stunning, resembling the veiny patterns found on marble. We tried everything besides the chicken (don’t waste stomach space on chicken), and the only thing I’d stay away from is the pork. The fat was difficult to render and left a lot to be desired. 

There was a self-serve drink machine filled with Coca-Cola products from your classic Sprite to funky flavors like orange vanilla Coke. I managed to try six distinctive flavors of Coke. 

The restaurant also offered a decadent buffet full of shabu-shabu accompaniments. If you wanted to cosplay as a rabbit, they had a plethora of greens from napa cabbage to zucchini. There was an assortment of seafood goodies like fish cakes, lobster balls, clams, and crawfish. Some hot sides like fried dumplings and chicken katsu were available, but they looked like they’d been bathing under the heat lamp for far too long. The noodle selection was quite comprehensive, encompassing everything from ramen to udon. However, I would recommend staying away from the starches and leaving that valuable real estate in your tummy for the meat. Lastly, there was a small sauce bar where you could mix and match sauces to your heart’s content. 

The bingsu station consisted of shaved ice with a smattering of toppings like fruit and sugary syrups — nothing impressive, but better than nothing. It seemed like more of a marketing gimmick than anything.

While Shabu-Works demands a hefty price tag, their attention to quality and complimentary access to drinks and sides make up for it. Later, my friend told me that he would’ve preferred the lingerie over the shabu-shabu; I’ll try to get it right for his birthday next year. 

Shabu-Works

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 9841 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92131

Rating: 8/10

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About the Contributor
Jonathan Zhang, Staff Writer
Foodie fanatic and comedy connoisseur.
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