Shabu shabu is great late
Zippy's is the default hangout for creatures of the night, one of the few establishments that can be counted on 24 hours. But Jace Kanemoto and friends -- night-lifers Blaise Sato, Moses Gomez and Ryan Chang, who are accustomed to making events happen -- got tired of the same old routine and decided to create a hangout of their own for fellow scenesters needing to address their late-night or early-morning appetites, while also nipping a potential hangover, whether wise to it or not.
NeoNabe takes nabemono, or the one-pot dish -- here, shabu shabu -- out of the traditional Japanese restaurant and into a high-gloss contemporary environment. The small interior's done up in sleek black and marble with art by Aaron Martin, a k a Angry Woebot. His paintings toy with such familiar Japanese restaurant figures as the pot-bellied, sake-loving badgerlike creature tanuki, and the maneki neko, giving them a grizzled, hung-over and world-weary vibe. I like it. The beckoning cat should
be tired of all that waving, day in and day out.
SHABU SHABU was an easy choice for the budding restaurateurs, and not just because it requires no actual cooking on their part -- hence the 4-star rating on the basic ingredients -- it's your fault if you ruin it. "We love the traditional shabu shabu," Kanemoto said. "But a lot of our friends think it's very plain, so we thought we would add some bold new flavors, add some flair to it.
"Plus, it's a very social, interactive thing, so if people are out enjoying themselves and the place is closing down, this is like another social environment they can move on to."
Naturally, there's no discrimination against the old folks, who inevitably show up for an early dinner. But young or old, there's no more congenial way to dine, with everyone gathered around a hot pot or two. Hopefully, you know your companions very well and are perfectly comfortable with the idea of swapping a little spit as the evening progresses. Tongs and spoons are provided for common use, but people are bound to forget, finding it easier to grab at tempting pieces of meat and veggies with their chopsticks. Thank goodness for the boiling or simmering broth.
The first step in ordering is to choose your broth, whether katsuo ($3), miso ($5), garlic ($5), phó ($5) or kim chee in mild or spicy versions ($5). As might be expected from the club set, diners have been creating their own broth remixes, so something like a popular garlic-miso combo that's not on the menu yet will be $6.
There is a minimum order of two entrees per table, but that turns out to be more suggestion than law. Otherwise, at $13 to $20 per order (plus the cost of the broth), that would be some expensive soup. The minimum is more like a self-protective measure designed to dissuade large parties from trying to get away with ordering as little as possible.
LIKE STOPPING to refill the gas tank -- which can be done at the 76 station across the street -- those who've been drinking until 2 or 4 a.m. can replenish their fluid content here.
Alcohol is a diuretic that increases the body's excretion of water. Nice. For purveyors of Bud. It means that every time you think you're quenching your thirst with a beer, you're actually speeding toward dehydration. That headache in the morning amounts to a buildup of toxins as your liver processes the alcohol and your brain urges you to get out of the desert.
Getting some liquid into your system right after partying prevents dehydration and can also helps dilute alcohol's toxic effect. A little bit of salt can also help restore sodium lost in repeated trips to the restroom.
You can't help but get your fill of liquids here. If you're not sipping soup, you're swilling water or green tea.
To your soup you can add a vegetarian platter ($13) of tofu, mushrooms, won bok, spinach, carrots and bell peppers, go for carpaccio-thin rib eye with vegetables ($15) or a surf-and-turf combo of rib eye and black tiger shrimp with vegetables ($20).
If you're too lazy to peel the shrimp and are not a vegetarian, the rib eye alone would be suitable. All boiled down, the rib eye probably amounts to only five ounces of meat, barely enough for one person. That's where the side dishes come in. If it's just the meat you want, a side dish of rib eye is $10. Dip it in any of three sauces offered: sesame, ponzu or miso-garlic.
Other sides you can add to the pot are tofu ($3), konyaku ($3), Manila clams ($6), tiger shrimp ($5.50), grated garlic ($1.50) and noodles (udon, saimin or rice noodles, $2.50). The noodles are a comforting factor and a definite yes for the end of the meal when you want to polish off the last of the soup, by now thickened with bits of tofu and bearing the essences of all the other ingredients.
A raw egg ($2) can also be added to the soup, with a lovely blossoming effect. If it's a hangover cure you need, this would be a good choice because eggs contain cysteine, which breaks down the hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde.
NeoNabe sundae ($4.50) is a simple dessert of four small scoops of vanilla or green tea ice cream topped with crispy kinako soy powder sprinkles and a touch of chocolate, or, if it's past midnight, start your morning with bunmeido a la mode ($5.50), a double pancake with apple filling topped with your choice of green tea ice cream or Bubbies lychee sherbet or vanilla ice cream.
The only downside is parking, which, on this crowded block of King Street, is by valet.