We head to Quincy in search of shabu — thinly sliced meat, seafood, and veggies you dip into a hot savory broth, fondue-style. By the time you cook the last of your goodies, the broth is enriched with all those flavors, and you finish your meal by ladling the remaining broth over thin rice noodles or thick, wheat-based udon.
Taiyou Shabu & Sushi, owned by Chinese brothers Huihua Li and Honghua Li, is in the Kam Man strip mall. It opened a year ago. The bright, neon-lit space is fairly empty when we arrive, with a cheery hostess giving us our pick of cushy booths with shabu cooktops or seats at the large sushi bar. We settle into a booth and begin tackling the extensive menu.
Shabu is what brought us to Taiyou, but we are intrigued by the lengthy sushi menu and decide to start there. First to arrive is usuzukrui ($8.50), thin slices of translucent fluke, drizzled with citrusy ponzu sauce, and a dab of hot sauce that pops like a firecracker but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate fish. We are pleased with the fresh and skillfully cut fish.
In addition to ubiquitous California rolls, and spicy tuna, Taiyou has a large selection of specialty house rolls. Though purists might find these westernized dishes an abomination, we enjoy each of the crispy, saucy rolls we try. Our favorite might be Xmas maki ($11.50), with shrimp tempura, raw tuna, and avocado in a crispy roll. The name is a mystery that no one at the restaurant can solve.
Mango shrimp maki ($8.50) is another house specialty, with more of that crispy shrimp tempura, this time bathed in a sweet mango sauce with spicy mayo. Half the table is raving about it, the other half dismissing it as cloying. Scallion and yellow tail maki ($5) and salmon sushi ($3 for two pieces) are fresh and generously cut with well-seasoned rice.
As with sushi, freshness is the most important factor in shabu. We order rib-eye of beef ($18) and the seafood supreme ($16.50). Two large platters arrive, one of paper thin, rosy raw beef, and another with an array of sparkling scallops, shrimp, salmon, and white fish. More plates come, these with mushrooms, greens, tofu skin, corn on the cob, and cabbage, all ready for cooking with chopsticks or small spider baskets. We have ordered the house broth, chosen from a selection that includes miso, pork, chicken, or vegetarian. The house broth, a combination of pork and chicken, is savory and satisfying, though as the broth bubbles away, it gets pretty salty. Dipped into the hot liquid, the beef takes only seconds to turn delightfully tender, the seafood fresh-tasting and bright.
On another visit we order shabu with Sichuan broth ($3); you can also opt for Chinese herbal or Korean kimchee. Our fiery red liquid is filled with chilies and peppercorns. The shabu pot has a divider in the middle so you can order multiple broths, a good idea if not everyone in your party enjoys the mouth-numbing heat of a Sichuan blend.
Our waitress comes over often to ask whether we want more soup. We appreciate attentive service, and she is at the ready to offer another icy Tsingtao to temper the spicy shabu. Sometimes she is too attentive, but then the dining room is empty.
For a guide to ordering, two shabu dishes plus a few sushi items will leave four diners feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Shabu is soothing, cold-weather comfort food. It won’t compromise the fit of your favorite jeans. Important to consider now and again.
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.