Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Japanese Fondue at Ushabu

I'm heading into the new year with a drive to start tackling the restaurants on my 2017 To Dine Challenge list. A cold night two weekends ago brought the perfect opportunity to check out Ushabu in Tremont. It's the new shabu-shabu (Japanese fondue) restaurant on Professor Avenue.
Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water. Here is a video on how to properly eat shabu-shabu. Our server told us that it means "swish, swish" like the sound of the meat being cooked as you lightly drag it through the broth with your chopsticks for 3-5 seconds.

While I didn't see the video, or do much research, in advance, it wasn't needed. What can appear to be an intimidating cooking process...
...was expertly explained by our server at the bar. I think your experience will depend a lot on the server you have at Ushabu. Ours was outgoing, interactive, informative, and checked on us frequently. I did notice that the other server was very shy and didn't seem to be instructing as much. I got over my hesitation pretty quickly, and just started throwing things into the simmering broth.

You have your choice of three broth bases. I had the Spicy Miso, Mr. H had the Ginger Chicken, and there is a Kombu (most traditional option). The spicy miso had a subtle heat to it, that didn't overpower the other flavors.

You cook some of the firmer vegetables first, then add in the other vegetables to continue to develop the broth's flavor. Our server gave us a timing estimate on each item, which I promptly forgot, but it didn't seem to matter much. A few items got a little overdone, and I did have to "taste test" items along the way to check their progress. Lastly, it's time to cook your meat.
I ordered the Seafood ($26), which included salmon, flounder, a scallop, three shrimp, and two clams. Mr. H and I wanted to do some sharing, so he ordered the Combo Meat (choose two- $22) and had Ohio Wagyu Beef and Australian Lamb. Rice and three side sauces are served with the meal. I suggest really letting your cooked items drip onto the rice to soak up some broth. Otherwise, it was very dry.

Once you're done cooking, you can choose to ladle your broth over the udon noodles provided. This was my favorite part of the meal! That bowl of soup warmed me right up, and made for some great leftovers.
Now, the restaurant is SMALL. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation, so that you don't get turned away at the door when you heart is set on it.

It was a new style of cuisine for me, but felt familiar as I've done Korean BBQ and traditional fondue before. My brother-in-law just traveled to Japan recently, and he said Ushabu's version of shabu-shabu wasn't too far off what he experienced there. I enjoyed the steamy, cozy restaurant on the cold night, and our server enhanced the experience. Right now, it's also BYOB before they get their liquor license.

First restaurant down for 2017, and it's one I'd recommend!

2173 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113