Shabu-Shabu buffet restaurant Shabu Sai recently joined the smorgasbord of restaurants at Orchard Central, turning the 8th floor of the shopping mall into a haven for northeast Asian food.
As soon as you step out of the lift, you are greeted by the inviting dark wood interiors of the restaurant as well as the array of plastic dishes that Japanese restaurants are well-known for. Spacious with clean lines, Shabu Sai seats up to 170 guests, with each table equipped with a self-controlled induction cooker that keeps the soup hot at a temperature of your liking.
The spread of ingredients at Shabu Sai is somewhat typical but no less appealing. Common vegetables like broccoli, carrots and cabbage sit pretty in traditional baskets for customers to pick with handy rubber tongs. Adding to the variety were shimeji mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chives and Shabu Sai’s signature minced pork, beef or chicken in bamboo, which supposedly protects the freshness of the meat with its anti-bacterial properties. Anti-bacterial or not, the meat was well-seasoned and took mere minutes to cook.
Of course, there’s the quintessential thin slices of meat – pork, chicken and beef – all served to your table as neat rows in zen-looking square black trays, instead of at the buffet spread. This makes complete hygiene sense as the raw meat isn’t left out in the open. All the meats were definitely better quality than those at your Beach Road steamboat places but the beef was a bit too fatty, making it look more like pork belly than strips of beef.
In addition to the raw food, this Shabu Sai also serves sushi. Not an extensive spread, but enough to keep the famished customer satiated while the soup gets to boiling point.
And no, we didn’t forget about the one thing that can make or break a hotpot eatery – the soup. Shabu Sai serves a total of seven types of soup bases, including sukiyaki, seafood, tomato and curry dashi, in a yuan-yang pot so that you can enjoy two different tastes at a time. According to our friendly server, the tonkotsu shoyu was the most popular and rightly so. They also had a special Yuzu Salt Beauty (they are introducing special soup bases every two months for a limited period) that had an appetizing yet subtle yuzu twang.
Dessert isn’t Shabu Sai’s strong point with only one option of vanilla soft serve, but then again, dessert isn’t what you should be after in a shabu shabu joint.
Do drop by if you’re in Orchard and are hankering for something hot and soupy!
by Kathleen Wong
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