Like I mentioned in my last post, my family and I just moved here from the DC Metro area this past May. One of the biggest things I miss about DC is our regular gathering with friends at the local Phở spot for a delicious bowl of Vietnamese soup. What’s Phở ? It’s beyond words, but see here. In DC, there are a plethora of Phở spots to choose from and we definitely have our favorites. Admittedly, the few recommendations we’ve gotten here in Savannah have yet to be tried. Why? Probably because we’re in denial that any other Phở can replace our favorites.
Imagine the following…a cold, rainy, dreary day and a nice bowl of hot, comforting soup.
Not the kind of soup your mama made when you were sick. No, the kind that fills you up, pushes you out of your comfort zone (using chopsticks and Sriracha), clears your sinuses, fills your belly almost to the point of food coma, and gets you prepared to head back to the 9-5, for a few more hours.
THAT kind of soup.
We’re always tinkering with the idea of finding a new favorite (again, the commitment to our beloved Phở is strong), so when one of my husband’s fellow chefs mentioned having to check out Splendid Shabu, we couldn’t deny it any longer.
When we arrived one Sunday afternoon, they just opened. Upon opening the door, we see tables with a gas burner in the middle. Much like a Korean BBQ restaurant. To say we were curious is an understatement.
The server, who happens to be one of the owners, comes out and explains this is a Japanese take on what her family would eat during the holidays. A “hot pot” of delicious rolling broth (meaning it’s boiling all day, they add more stock to it as it’s used) where each person adds their chosen thinly sliced raw meats and vegetables to the pot to cook. Because the meats and vegetables are so thin, they don’t take long to cook. Add to that a custom made dipping sauce and we have a worthy rival to my beloved Phở.
I won’t lie, I was a bit resistant. I mean, having eaten dozens of bowls of Phở over a ten year span, I wasn’t sure anything would replace it, but interestingly I enjoyed this experience more than I thought. The more I understood about what it was I was doing the more I enjoyed it.
We had a choice of what kind of noodles arrive in the broth (clear noodles, Vermicelli, Ramen, etc.) and what meat we would be cooking ourselves (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, seafood). With these choices came a plate full of vegetables (mushrooms, corn on the cob, bok choy, watercress, etc.) that we would also be cooking.
It took a few minutes to get the hang of it, to drop the resistance, but once I understood, I quickly had my favorite vegetable and meat combinations. With the big soup spoon, tasting the delicious broth, now the pool from which my chosen food items have been cooked in, the broth becomes a virtual liquid gold. Enough so that you want to bring whatever excess broth you have home, so you can put your own meat/veggies in it later.
Add to that, you basically create your own dipping sauce, whether you are a lightweight on the heat, or enjoy burning the taste buds off your tongue. While your food is being prepared, you walk over to the sauce bar and create your own masterpiece. Since the restaurant just opened, our server/owner joined us to explain her preferred combinations. My husband and I tried different ingredients so we could get a good taste, and I will admit we could not choose a favorite.
For those of you who are stumped on what to do on date night? Splendid Shabu. It is a wonderful conversation starter, that will most likely continue throughout your dining experience and probably after as you tell your friends and family that they too should check it out.
For those of you downtown, if you are a TRUE soup fan, it is definitely worth the drive to Pooler. If you are a diehard Phở fan, this is different but again, worth a visit.
Because we had such a great introduction to what Japanese shabu-shabu is (named from the sound the broth makes when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot.) the second time we went to Splendid Shabu we felt like experts. No explanations needed, thank you.
While I left a part of my heart in some of my favorite Phở joints in DC, I CANNOT complain because Splendid Shabu delivers on a comforting bowl of hearty goodness. A delicious bowl of soup that is cooked to your own liking, a variety of sauces to tempt both the timid and the brave, and a wonderful way to spend an hour or so with someone you love …or are getting to know.
They recently underwent a dramatic renovation upgrading their tables to granite with induction burners vs gas (no dropping that last piece of cooked beef in the stove top) and a community table in the center of the restaurant to add to the “Won’t you be my neighbor?” kind of ambiance that gives newbies to this type of food the comfort of knowing they are not alone. Finally, using a dual broth pot, you can create even more flavor combinations.
Splendid Shabu is definitely in our regular repertoire of go to places when we need a bowl of comfort from a long hard day or year!