Healthy and Sane

Shabu-Zen in Allston review

February 21st, 2010 · 16 Comments · Asian, Boston, restaurant reviews

I’ve been on a serious Asian food kick lately. My first craving a few weeks ago was not satisfied, and I just cannot get enough since then. So when Adam suggested yesterday that we get together with a few friends to check out Shabu Zen in Allston, I instantly agreed. I love the healthy and fun concept of a Shabu-shabu Japanese do-it-yourself hotpot, and this particular restaurant received great reviews.

After way too much time spent looking for parking, we finally decided to just stay in the restaurant’s parking lot and wait for someone to leave. Luckily, we didn’t have to sit in the car for too long before someone finally moved their car. The whole parking situation was quite stressful, but a beer (or a glass of Riesling in my case) was the perfect way to take the edge off and mark the beginning of the weekend. :)

J. Lohr “Bay Mist” Riesling


This was a sweet fruity wine that paired perfectly with the spicy food.

All five of us were shabu-shabu virgins but the waitress kindly (and patiently) explained the concept and the menu to us. I think at the end we did a great job ordering! 😀

A picture of the room we were in, probably 1/4 of the restaurant – it was huge!


I started with the squid salad, which tasted exactly like the squid salad I had at Samurai a few weeks ago. The portion was small, but it was so delicious. I loved the marinated squid – so much flavor!


We got half a pot with Spicy Chinese broth and half with Shabu-Zen’s standard chicken broth. Can you guess which one is the spicy one? 😉


Both were great, although the Spicy Chinese broth had one spice that I wasn’t crazy about. I think next time I’d order the tom yum broth but I was out-voted this time. 😀

Each person got a little dish with soy sauce


… to which we could add any of these extras – garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes and Japanese bbq sauce


I added all but the scallions. It was the perfect flavoring agent for the veggies and fish. I loved that each person could customize their own dipping sauce.

All meal combos came with a plate of veggies which included 3 types of mushrooms, broccoli, radishes, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, tofu and tofu skin


+ a choice of udon noodles, rice or vermicelli noodles. Adam and I choice the udon noodles (they were individual size portions so we actually ended up ordering another one of these – one each)


And we went with the surf & turf comboscallops, prawns, salmon, cod, squid, clam, and fish cake + a choice of beef, pork, chicken or lamb. We went with pork. As soon as the food arrived, we started throwing stuff in the hot pot. SO cool!!



Our seafood plate:


The pork (thinly sliced for quick cooking)




Working hard for our food 😆


Clearly, we all hated it. 😉


All right, all right – we were all very happy campers




I forgot to mention that the waitress mid-way also brought 2 nice dipping sauces for the meat – a peanut sesame sauce and a thai sweet and spicy sauce. Both were indeed fabulous with the meat.

This was a really fun interactive dinner. We all loved playing with our food and the service and the quality of everything at Shabu-Zen were great. Have you ever been to a shabu-shabu restaurant?

For other restaurant suggestions, check our my Restaurant Reviews page.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Meghan@traveleatlove

    I LOVE shabu-shabu. We have one here in Dorchester, and I really like how you can add chilis, garlic, ginger etc to your broth. Its the best cold cure ever. Plus its such a light and tasty way of cooking, eating, and really savoring a meal!

  • #2 - Cara

    Elina, I am very intrigued by the shabu shabu concept! My husband had an Asian hot pot once and has been talking about it since, and just the other day I said maybe we’d need to try it at home. Because I’m not sure we have any restaurants nearby that serve it, but I’m going to look into that.

    And thank you so much for that coupon alert! I took advantage and I can’t wait.

  • #3 - Lauren

    So fun! I haven’t been to a shabu-shabu restaurant, but I definitely want to sometime soon.

    I also want to check out that Riesling… I like J.Lohr wines, and in a few months it will (hopefully!) be warm enough for me to crave white wines again!

  • #4 - Tiffany

    Jere and I had dinner at Shabu Shabu once (the one in Chinatown) and it was soooo delicious. Admittedly boiled meat sounds icky to me, but I loved it.

    Glad you enjoyed it, too!

  • #5 - Carly

    So jealous!!! I’ve been wanting to find a shabu-shabu restaurant! Looks like a delicious, healthy, good time :) I thought about you last night when I made dinner. If you and Adam like winter squash you should try the Ellie Krieger recipe from this months Cooking Light ( It’s stovetop, but I think you could EASILY do it in the microwave since it uses frozen squash. My husband even liked it. We both agreed that it would also taste good with some Jamaican Jerk type seasoning added as well!

  • #6 - Madeline - Greens and Jeans

    I have heard nothing but fantastic things about shabu-shabu! I can’t wait to try it!

  • #7 - Shannon

    wow, that sounds fun and delicious! interactive dining is great :)

  • #8 - sister inna

    so weird! i’ve been craving asian food lately too! myabe this symbolizes the coming of spring? right… hahaha

  • #9 - Liz

    I’ve never heard of shabu shabu before, but I am currently looking for one in my area :) Looks so good and like so much fun! It reminds me of fondue restaurants, sort of.

    Must be something in the air – I’ve been on an Asian kick as well. I notice every week, when I make the menu, I keep gravitating towards Asian type recipes. Yum! :)

  • #10 - Melissa

    This place looks cool. We’re gonna check them out!

  • #11 - Miriam

    This is the biggest glass of wine ever lol It actually kidda look like a glass of water! :)

  • #12 - Lauren @ Eater not a runner

    I’ve never been to Shabu Shabu but that looks like fun!

  • #13 - Lara (Thinspired)

    You know I will totally support an Asian food kick 😉

    Ok, I just remembered…I think Inna has visited one of these restaurants before and told me all about it. Sorry for the confusion 😉

  • #14 - Elina

    Cara – you’re welcome. It was such a good deal. I’m still new to liking lamb so I’m afraid it’s a bit much for me. Have fun!!

    Carly – that link didn’t work – is it the cover recipe? It does sound good! :)

    Innz – Asian food and spring? 😕

    Liz – maybe we all rub off on each other. 😀

    Miriam – haha, it wasn’t that big actually. Looking at it now, it does look like a water glass. I promise, I didn’t drink 16 ounces of wine! 😉

    Lara – I knew you would. San Fran should have wonderful Asian food. We need to go!!

  • #15 - Carly

    Yes! It is the cover recipe :)

  • #16 - Lele

    That is so cool! I got addicted to shabu shabu in Taiwan, and that place is AUTHENTIC- the spicy and mild broth, the types of veggies, the pork slices, the ridiculous quantity of food! Makes me wish I was still in Boston (or Taiwan!)