The Bull's Eye

Hot Pot showdown

The line between hot pot and shabu shabu is rather blurry for the casual diner. But the minutiae of different dipping sauces and cooking styles becomes rather irrelevant, as with either of the soup-based meals, you receive a comforting and customizable dining experience.

While the concept of cooking thinly sliced meat and various vegetables in broth is fairly simple and may easily become repetitive, there are a variety of hot pot restaurants in the area that offer their own take on the popular fare.

Yojie Japanese Fondue

Despite what the restaurant’s name suggests, Yojie serves shabu shabu in an all-you-can-eat style. To begin, customers choose one serving of either angus beef, chicken or fish to cook in either a shabu shabu, sukiyaki or spicy miso broth. One pot is shared between two customers, but because it is split in half, you are able to pick your own flavor. Aside from the classic shabu shabu broth, the other broth choices cost an additional $2 fee. Then, customers are directed to the self-serve bar, which offers a few options such as leafy greens, noodles and tofu. However, I was slightly disappointed, as there weren’t too many options beyond the typical vegetables. In addition, customers can opt for a few other add-ons, and different types of meat were available for additional cost. Yojie doesn’t venture into the large array of sauces to be mixed together like many other modern hot pot places do. However, the traditional ponzu and goma sauce offered worked well to enhance the flavors of the hot pot items, without overpowering the taste of the crisp taste of the vegetables and savory meat. The $16.99 meal, not including different broth flavors or other add-ons, was satisfying and a good representation of a traditional shabu shabu meal. I was pleasantly surprised by the portions of the meat. I found that one serving of the beef was more than enough for myself to feel full, though the single serving of fish, which my friend ordered, seemed a lot lighter.

Paper Pot Shabu

The specialty of Paper Pot Shabu lies in the uncommon paper lining used in the personal pots. However, beyond my initial interest in this minor unique feature, nothing much was added to my dining experience. The 12 broths offered at Paper Pot Shabu are much more flavorful than those I had at other restaurants, and they were the only broths that I enjoyed as a soup instead of simply a cooking medium. The house spicy broth and Japanese curry were my personal favorites, but I was a little taken aback at the cost of the beef, considering the small portions. I settled on the $21 6-oz. serving of Prime Rib Eye, which, while delicious, was nothing phenomenal. For $3 extra, I upgraded to their Wow Combo, which included sausages, dumplings and fish cakes, among a few other add-ons, though the portions were, yet again, rather small. Paper Pot is a worthwhile visit for those who prefer personal hot pots instead of communal ones, but the disconnect between the portion size and price will likely prevent me from being a regular customer.

Shabuya

With the surplus of hot pot locations in the area, it may seem pointless to travel very far for the same cuisine. However, located across the street from Ikea in West Covina, Shabuya will elevate your hot pot experience. I don’t usually have hot pot with my parents, as they find the meal overly expensive and too easily replicated at home. However, even they had to admit that the all-you-can-eat buffet was completely worth it. I found the quality of meat and other add-ins, like fish balls, seafood and vegetables, was the highest at Shabuya. While the meat is given in small quantities, and only four plates can be ordered at a time, the waiters checked back extremely often to take more orders. One pot, which is split in half for two different broths, is shared between up to four people. The Original House and Chinese Hot Pot soup bases both bring out a nice flavoring to the items cooked in it, but I enjoyed the Chinese base a little more because of the added spice. The large variety of options at the buffet is what places Shabuya above all the other restaurants I had tried. If the $26.99 per person is intimidating, visit during lunch when the price is reduced to $18.99. Although there are fewer meat selections, you still are able to take full advantage of the buffet area.

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