It’s not every day you come across an "all-you-can-eat” establishment that doesn’t somehow disappoint. Unlimited prime beef brisket? Pork belly? Fish cakes? What’s the catch? At the new Shabro Shabu Shabu in Carrollton’s beloved Koreatown, there fortunately isn’t much of one.
Of course, there are general rules to eat by: You’ve only got two hours to stuff your gob with as much meat, soup, noodles and veggies as you can. Each uneaten plate will cost you $5.99, so don’t order or grab more than you can handle. There's an automatic 15 percent gratuity no matter the party size (no additional tip required), but that’s all clearly communicated to you the moment you take a seat, and in case you forget, there are signs just about everywhere.
Hot pot, which you might also see referred to as “shabu shabu” or “huo guo,” is a simple but hearty meal that takes form across Asia and is usually eaten at the first sign of chilly weather. Its foundation is a simmering pot of soup, and thin cuts of meat, vegetables and noodles are boiled into tasty submission. All those elements help flavor the soup and give it more heft. While each culture and each family may do hot pot a little differently, no matter where you go, there’s a universal rule: Don't hot pot with people you don't like.
Unlike the conventional hot pot scenario, in which everyone hovers eagerly over one communal kettle in a battle royal of the fastest chopsticks, at Shabro you get your own customizable hot pot. You’re in charge.
Pick your broth: miso, seafood, chicken, Chinese huo guo or the original house soup, which is reminiscent of a sweet and savory udon broth. The Chinese huo guo is definitely the most fragrant. It's crafted from a traditional Chinese sacha sauce, which has soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, brill fish and dried shrimp, all ground into an oily pulp. It gives the broth a spicy and smoky finish.
Then order the meat: beef boneless short rib, prime beef chuck, rib eye, pork loin, prime beef brisket, pork belly, beef round, chicken breast or lamb. If you’ve never had hot pot before, we should warn you that in the do-it-yourself spirit that makes this dish so charming, the meat is served raw. Just toss it into the soup and let it cook for a few seconds. And if red meat isn’t your cup of tea, there are also satisfying seafood alternatives at the sides bar, which has everything from clams and shrimp to crawfish and squid.
Finally, go ham (but not too ham) at the self-serve sides buffet, a veritable smorgasbord that stretches the length of an entire restaurant wall. Section one has the veggies: corn on the cob, cilantro, cabbage, bean sprouts, spinach, kimchi and mushrooms. Move on down the line to the fish and lobster meatballs, fish cakes, skewers and tofu. And last, the starches: glass noodles, udon, dumplings, dried instant ramen and ddukbokki, Korean tube-shaped rice cakes. There’s also a humble little salad bar at the end, but let’s not kid ourselves.
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Top it all off at the sauce counter, where you can mix and match ponzu, soy, chili oil, wasabi, sweet chili and/or peanut sauces to amp things up. There’s even a self-serve ice cream freezer, but by hordes of cheering children are constantly circling it, so approach wisely and carefully.
Shabro takes customization to the next level, and that kind of liberation is the restaurant’s best and enduring quality. This spacious two-story restaurant in the space that was once Spoon makes up what it lacks in decorative ambience with homey, communal spirit. Every table is full, with families and strollers sitting beside young 20-somethings and retirees throwing back drinks with old friends. They come for the tasty, unlimited hot pot, and they stay for the (two) hours of boisterous conversations and laughs shared over beer, broth and soju.
Shabro Shabu Shabu, 2625 Old Denton Road, Carrollton