Shabu Shabu (Japanese called it "Swish Swish" as in like swishing your chopsticks back and forth around the soup) had been commonly joked as the biggest scam in the restaurant world, along with their counterpart Korean BBQ. Where else can restaurant cut their overhead? Simple....let the customers cooked the food themselves.
Funny joke or not, the stigma still stands and it can cause a little apprehensions when the bill comes. Since the customer cooked their own food, should they get a break on the bill? Or better yet, should they get paid for cooking?
Even if they provided the meat, soup base, ingredients, and sauces, many people still felt it's something they can cook at home with the affront components can be readily bought in a supermarket. I mean after all, how hard is it to put meat and vegetables on a soup and stir?
So, even facing with these obstacles, how can a place like Jazz Cat Cafe beat the supposed impending doom? Simple really. As it is not that easy to provide your own mixture of soup base, better quality of meat than your average supermarket and provide your own side dishes on the whim.
There is one bummer part about Jazz Cat Cafe that have changed in recent times. In the past, they would provide you with a burner to cook your hot pot of soup. You can inspect your meat and vegetables ahead of time before you insert them to the boiling pot of soup.
Well, not anymore. As you can see in the bottom, they now have the pot precooked with the burner being taken out. They now would only bring the pot out with a bowl of rice in a tray. There is a sauce provided on the side.
Supposedly, the change was made because of lack of air installations above on the restaurant's ceilings. The customers were complaining the burner was making the room temperature intolerable hot was being sighted as another reason. Good news will be on the horizon as Jazz Cat Cafe as rumored will be moving to a bigger location to accommodate that problem. Presently, it will be a letdown for today.
I have decided to order the soup base of Hokkaido Premium Kelp Hot Pot with Shrimp and Beef. The soup base is suppose to be healthier and cleaner, which was very refreshing for me. Usually the soup base for me is a little murky whenever I ordered a Miso or some spicy soup base, so this was a nice pace of change.
One of my dining companion had ordered a creamy corn soup base which she had enjoyed. Besides the creamy texture, it gave a rich flavored taste that suits well with the shrimp.
One of my favorite about coming here was getting a tall glass of Rose Milk Tea. The coolest thing about this was that it comes in a tall mason jar, but with a handle. You coupled it with a starter of Taiwanese sausage and some deep fried tofu, you are set to go.
Overall impression about this place: I honestly thought it was a cool looking cafe that is handsomely decorated in dark wood around the place. It wasn't posh, but it still was very nice for a shabu shabu place. In the future, if they decide to move out and take their shabu shabu operation, they should be able to keep this place strictly as a cafe as I noticed they were serving pastas and other desserts. With the tea drinks that was being offered, it should have no problem sustaining on what they have here.
About the shabu shabu, it was a big disappointment for me that they took out the opportunity to let you cook as some of us preferred our meat to be cooked a little rare. With the pre-cooked, the meat and veggies can be boiled to the climax by the time for the pot to arrive to us. It took some of the fun and enjoyment of self cook shabu shabu from us. It was downer to say the least.
Another big bummer for me was the lack of sauce. As you can see on the top with pictures of the tray, Jazz Cat Cafe only provided one sauce. Usually you get two or three sauce like soy sauce and Ponzu sauce. So it was a bit disappointing that there is lack of choices in that department too.
With the Hot pot of beef and seafood coming out to $17.95 with the sausage to be $4.95. Adding on a drink of $2.50, the total bill comes out to be around $30. The restaurant gave us a 10% discount on the Shabu Shabu. (I think it was because of the lack of burner for self-cooking). It is still a somewhat of a bargain for a decent shabu shabu.
Now I just can't wait for them to open the new location so I can experience what made them popular in the past. The self-cooked shabu shabu.
Jazz Cat Cafe
640 W Valley Blvd Ste A
Alhambra, CA 91803