My friend suggested to try out this shabu shabu place that just opened near the LAB in Costa Mesa. So a few of us carpooled there for lunch one Friday... we got there around noon and the place was about half full.
Decor was modern minimalist, with two large oval bars in the center of the room. From what I remember, there were no individual tables- you had to sit in the communal bar area. I don't mind communal areas for a small group, but since we were a group of 6, I basically only talked to my friends to the right and left of me... not much socializing at all. Like most shabu shabu houses, each person had their own little hot pot to cook with.
The order came with the usual: kelp dashi (broth), rice, ponzu sauce, goma (sesame sauce), udon (3 strands), napa cabbage, carrots, dried kelp, green onions, and bok choy. However, for the price I was paying for lunch ($11.50), they skimped on many of the sides that other shabu houses serve (eg, mushrooms, vermicelli, fish cake). The ponzu sauce had a nice sourness to it, but wasn't salty enough; the sesame sauce was too sweet and I couldn't even taste the nutty flavors of sesame. You might be wondering what that brick red drop is on the sesame sauce... it's actually a potent, condensed, explosive dallop of chili oil. That one drop made the entire bowl of ponzu sauce HOT!
I ordered the regular beef plate- 8 slices of thinly sliced beef. The cut seemed to be thinner than most places I've been to and the beef wasn't too fresh either- there were small brown streaks in a few of the slices... which means that the beef has been refrigerated for ~ 5 days (Yes- I am a food nerd!). The meat itself was mediocre... not very tender.
California Shabu Shabu seems to be another one of those trendy restaurants trying to catch on to the latest shabu shabu bandwagon craze. At prices like that, with an economy like this, they better boost their quality (and quantity) for them to compete against the dozens of shabu houses in the OC. For a true Shabu Shabu experience, I will MUCH rather fork out $$$ for a traditional 8-course dining extravanganza at KaGaYa in Little Tokyo.
California Shabu Shabu
801 Baker Street Suite A
Costa Mesa, CA 92626