Bryan and I decided to try out Shabu Square, the new shabu restuarant in Harvard Square this past Saturday (coincidentally, it was Valentine's Day). Here is the quick summary of my opinion:
Prices: For Harvard Square, reasonable - $10 for a vegetarian shabu order and $16 for a "surf & turf" shabu shabu order. There is a minimum $10/per person requirement.
Ambiance: Nice. The space was completely renovated for this restaurant, so everything is nice and new. It has the ambiance of a Japanese restaurant - clean, simple, and sort of bamboo-y.
Quality: so-so. The vegetables were fine, but the seafood was lower quality. The scallops had no sweetness. In fact, they hardly had any flavor. The beef was fine, but nothing to write home about. They did not have some of the fancier cuts of meat we have seen at other shabu places. They also have a limited number of broth options: Spicy Chinese, Tom Yum, Korean Kim chee, and miso. We tried Spicy Chinese ($3), which was spicy but did not have much deep flavor. We also tried the plain chicken broth (free). In terms of food quality, it is definitely a step lower than the other shabu places we've tried (Shabu-Zen, Kaze, Little Q). [my absolute favorite hot pot place is Little Q, especially the mala spicy broth. SOOO GOOOOD! Too bad it's so far away in Quincy!]
Other comments: We ordered a funny appetizer, mostly because it sounded so strange. It was salmon sashimi rolled inside roti (Malaysian bread) with spicy mayo.
In theory it sounded interesting, but the taste was actually quite average. The roti was deep fried and quite greasy. Since the restaurant did not have a sushi bar, we started to suspect that they just used their hot pot salmon meat and chose not to cook it. Fortunately, neither of us got sick, so I'm going to assume that the fish was fine.
No alcohol, which might be a big negative for some people.
This place is almost like an Asian fusion restaurant run by Chinese people. On top of the shabu menu, they also have pho, Thai dishes (like pad thai and the like), Japanese noodles, etc.
Conclusion: I like having a shabu place in Harvard Square since we can just walk to this restaurant. It is a nice, healthy option in Harvard Square for a decent price. I understand that it's more expensive to run a restaurant in Harvard Square, so I appreciate their efforts to keep the prices reasonable. Just remember, you do get what you pay for. Bryan decided that, if he were to come again, he'd probably just order the beef shabu since the seafood was underwhelming. I would probably stick with the vegetarian shabu.
As a side point, recently my brother in law bought filet mignon from Costco and sliced it up for a hot pot that we were having at my sister's birthday party. It was sooooo good! Yes, he had to slice the meat himself, but the texture of filet mignon cannot be beat. Now that I've had filet mignon at a hot pot, it's hard for me to go back to eating normal hot pot meat. This is why I would probably order the vegetarian option at Shabu Square.
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