I love how the Makati Cinema Square area is home to many culinary spots that are packaged as “best-kept secrets”, but are really not-so-secret anymore. There you have Little Tokyo, an institution for Japanese fare, the sacred place where I popped my sashimi-cherry and have learned to eat (and sincerely enjoy) raw fish through Kikufuji’s Spicy Tuna Sashimi. Seryna, a few steps away, serves some of the best maguro in town, while Sunvar Plaza houses the hidden Wagyu Japanese Beef – not so Japanese in name, but the quality of perfectly-marbled meat they serve is undeniably Japanese.
Along Amorsolo Street, where Sango used to be, stands the newest “best-kept secret” yet. Among the throng of restaurants that are all vying to serve the freshest and best sushi, a modest eatery that’s decked out with pale yellow walls is getting loads of attention. And you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not because of sushi.
Shabu Shabu Shogun, still in their soft opening stages, takes pride in their Japanese-style shabu-shabu, which literally means “swish-swish” in English. I believe one of the strongest points in Japanese cuisine is how simplicity goes a long way. A lot has to do with the quality of ingredients – the freshness of the meats, vegetables, down to each grain of rice – that hardly need any secondary flavors.
We start off with shelled Hokkaido crab, still sitting in its cold, sweet juices. It is light and unbelievably succulent. With crab this good, you couldn’t even think of pairing it with anything else, except of course, with some ice-cold sake. So we take shots and sips of Sake Jun, stopping as we feel the slow burn reach our ears.
Unlike the Chinese hot pot, Japanese shabu-shabu is often served sukiyaki-style. Thin slices of beef (usually ribeye, sirloin, or wagyu – but these are sirloin) are laid out along with some fresh vegetables and a few dipping sauces. Shabu Shabu Shogun’s sauce selection includes a peanut-based sauce, a soy-based “secret” sauce that I feel was ponzu, and some chili sauce that oddly tasted like gochujang with scallions on the side.
In Shabu-Shabu Shogun, you can choose to cook in a hot pot filled with some kombu dashi (a stock made from boiling water and kelp) or through a hot plate with sukiyaki sauce. We were asked whether we wanted udon or rice with our meal. (I chose udon but ended up eating rice, too, because I love my carbs.)
I like eating my meat without any seasoning at first – some people think it’s weird – but I do it to experience the full-on beef flavor on its own, before altering its taste with sauces and seasonings. I was called out on this once, and I was told that it’s silly of me to do this because the meat would be bland to the palate, but you’ll be surprised at how tasty the beef can be on its own if the quality’s good. Shabu Shabu Shogun’s beef was actually great even when just cooked in the kombu dashi. Hardly any seasoning was required, maybe a teeny pinch of salt at the most. But wait until you try the hot plate.
This was obviously how I enjoyed eating my beef that evening! While the salty-sweet sukiyaki sauce was slowly bubbling away like thick, gooey caramel, I quickly cooked my beef and dunked it in raw egg. I can almost hear your minds screaming salmonella (!!!). Which would be what my mother would do. So be cool about it. The remaining heat from the beef that came straight from the pan will kill whatever unidentified bacteria you fear. If you need anymore proof, well, I think I finished almost half a raw egg, and it’s been almost a week since we ate here, and I am fine and alive. It’s just proof that the eggs they serve are super-fresh, otherwise, I might’ve been a walking amoeba by now. Thus being unable to write this post.
Of course, great food is best enjoyed with great company! It was awesome catching up with my good friends Stacy and Danah from The Plump Pinay, and Jill aka The Food Scout! I’ll definitely be back for more beef, crab, and sake!
Shabu Shabu Shogun
Amorsolo Street corner Rufino Street,
Legazpi Village, Makati
+632 801 1770
Thanks again to Stacy and Danah for the invite, and Shabu Shabu Shogun’s owner, Luke Britanico, for having me over! The food was really good, and eating with you guys was tons fun.