They say that time is money, and it’s never been truer than at Shabu Shabu, the Japanese hotpot and sushi buffet that just opened a sleek new branch next to Lucky 7 on Sothearos Boulevard. For just under US$8, customers are given 80 minutes to eat and drink as much as they please.
If I am going to dish out eight bucks for a meal, you better believe I am going to make the most of it, and I entered the restaurant as if their time limit were a challenge to my exceptional eating abilities.
As soon as I stepped into the restaurant I was warmly welcomed by sharply dressed waiters and waitresses who led me and my friends to our table, one of many in the big black- and red-themed restaurant that can seat about 150 hungry customers.
I started my fast-paced feast with a hot pot of plain vegetable soup (spicy is another option, but I am a wimp when it comes to hot food) and began to make my master creation. First I tossed in a piece of Hawaiian corn, then fresh Taiwanese cabbage, pork, beef, shrimp, celery and black mushrooms, and before long the steam rising from the pot smelled so good that I couldn’t help but grab a spoon.
The songs of Preap Sovath were the soundtrack to most of our meal, but as the restaurant filled up the voice of Cambodia’s most beloved pop star began to blend in with tableside chit-chat. On a normal day, the restaurant fills up around 6pm, so either show up early or get ready to wait for a table.
My initial trip to the buffet was fine, but as my stomach filled up, and food-induced laziness kicked in, the walk from my table by the window to the buffet at the centre of the restaurant became increasingly difficult.
After soup and a couple of cokes, I turned my attention to the sushi maki, which was, given my eight-dollar investment, a bit disappointing. The colorful appearance was quite appetising, but upon putting the attractive morsels into my mouth, I found that the fish wasn’t that fresh and the rice was a bit sour. Maybe I’m just not a fan of Japanese cuisine. I ended up leaving a number of pieces on the table but, of the ones I did eat, the California maki was the best.
The other items in the buffet, such as the fried noodles and BBQ chicken, were delicious at first, but rather oily and lost some of their appeal after a few bites.
Shabu Shabu is best suited for people with a healthy appetite and little interest in socialising. Since you have to compete with time, you begin to feel like you need to grab every item on the food train, and you simply can’t talk while seriously chowing down.
Despite trying to eat as quickly as possible, I was informed upon arriving at the dessert and fruit table that I was over my 80 minutes and would have to pay an extra dollar for 20 more minutes of feasting freedom. I wouldn’t pay a dollar just for ice cream, especially after stuffing myself silly for nearly an hour and a half. I walked out of the restaurant with a full stomach, which was what I had hoped for, but for $8, I would have liked a little more.
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