Over the past several years, North Quincy has become an increasingly great place for dining out, with a number of restaurants and food spots reflecting the influx of Asian and Asian-American folks who live in this bustling, close-knit neighborhood. And more than a few of the eateries that line Hancock Street and Billings Road fall firmly into the category of "hidden gems," including a wonderful little spot just north of the main intersection called Shabu Restaurant, which--as you might guess by its name--features a wide variety of hot pot options at decent prices.
Shabu is one of those places that is very easy to miss, as the signage out front (which is partially hidden by a tree) is not exactly prominent, and its narrow storefront looks like so many others lining both sides of Hancock Street. The restaurant is modern-looking and brightly-lit inside, with a counter to the right that is set up with stations for hot pot, while a handful of tables mostly line the left wall with the table tops also set up for cooking. An outdoor area with a Japanese garden can be found to the right of the restaurant and this, too, is set up for hot pot as well when the weather cooperates.
Hot pot might seem like a simple concept (and in some ways it is), but the sheer number of options for soup bases, meats and seafood, rice and noodles, veggies, and condiments creates endless combinations for meals at Shabu Restaurant. Some of the offerings here include a mild and slightly sweet/salty miso broth; an earthy mushroom broth that is made even better by asking for extra mushrooms on the side as an option; a red-hot spicy Szechuan base that is not for the faint of heart; a wonderful prime rib eye that has just enough fat to add some extra flavor (and much of it dissolves in the boiling broth); a pricey but beautiful-looking kobe beef option that is the top option for meats; lean turkey that soaks up much of the broth flavor; pork that is moderately lean but has enough fat to add more flavor to the broth; salmon head for those who may be a bit adventurous; thick udon noodles and slightly nutty-tasting ramen noodles; veggies such as corn on the cob, tomatoes, daikon, and watercress; and condiments such as garlic, minced chili peppers, soy sauce, and more. A number of appetizers are offered (including excellent versions of pork gyoza and vegetable dumplings), and a couple of desserts worth trying include an unusual green tea tiramisu and a waffle ice cream. On the drink side, Shabu offers beer, wine, sake, and smoothies, with the latter coming in approximately 20 different flavors and combinations.
Hot pot seems like something that could become a booming trend at some point, and more and more shabu/hot pot places do seem to be opening up in the Boston area. And the people behind Shabu Restaurant in Quincy (who also run several Fuji restaurants and other places in the region, by the way) seem to be on the cutting edge with this spot, as it is often crowded with local folks night after night. For people who live outside of the North Quincy area, however, it remains a hidden gem for now, and is one of those restaurants that gives off a true sense of discovery once you walk through its doors.
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