Swish Shabu

A pot of boiling, steamy broth waiting to be flavored with various meats, vegetables, seafood and so many other things… that is the type of comfort food no tomato soup and grilled cheese could ever replace. Accompanied with a bowl of rice or noodles, you can taste your uniquely flavored soup at the final stage of the meal with a feeling of accomplishment; you made that broth, top chef!

If you are a “hot pot” or “shabu” first timer, here’s a quick run down of what you’re missing out on. This style of cooking comes from either Mongolia or China (still unknown) where you have a pot of simmering water or stock and an assortment of raw vegetables, meats and seafood. You cook them by dipping the foods in the hot water or broth and dab on some soy dipping sauce and other yummy condiments after; minced garlic, chilies, soybean paste, green scallions, and more. Life is all about enjoying simple pleasures, and there is nothing easier than dipping raw food in hot broth. Really!

I went to Swish Shabu in Fenway for lunch with some lovely Yelpers: Nicole V. and Alex B. (They have some great recommendations if you’re looking for good eats) As always, they picked a fantastic place for lunch. Although I usually go to the buffets because it’s $20 per person, all-you-can-eat, the quality is mediocre and the quantity is the only thing it has going for it. Over time, I learned with the right amount of people and a couple orders of high quality ingredients, you pay the same price or less compared to a buffet.

Vegetarian Combo - $12.50

Seafood Combo - $10.95

Meyers Organic Prime Rib Eye Combo - $20

Ostrich Combo - $15.95

Beef Tongue - $6

Vibrant and fresh greens, beautifully marbled red meat, and you know- other stuff, like ostrich meat and cow tongue. Can you do me a favor before you start to feel squeamish and freaked out though? Give it a shot. The cow tongue was one of my favorite plates and you won’t even think about feeling taste buds against yours at all. I’m sure that didn’t help, but that was for my personal amusement. Anyways, all the dishes were not portioned to fill you quickly, but sized in a great way that allows you to enjoy a variety of foods. For us, we were very happy with every dish and the massive amount of vegetables accompanying them. As for the ostrich meat, it was delightfully game-y and incredibly lean. It’s always fun to try something new.

When I looked at each dish’s price, I was ready to spend some money- $20 for a beef plate? Eek! But no, not that bad at all. Somehow, our table of four was very content and completely satisfied, all with a $66 bill. Not too shabby!

On top of the great food and surprisingly great price, our waitress was wonderful. She always had a smile on her face, filled our waters when they were half way through, and asked if we were enjoying our meal without being overbearing. It seems like the staff at Swish Shabu are all sweet, friendly, and accommodating while being efficient. Perfect.

All in all, I really enjoyed having hot pot here. Thanks to Nicole V. and Alex B., I now have another restaurant that I can happily recommend to others!

I double dare you to try beef tongue at Swish Shabu.
Total Meal: $66
Servings: 4 people
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Zagat Presents: An Evening in Alsace at L’Espalier

Boston’s Back Bay area transformed itself into Alsace, France for a splendorous and enchanting evening at L’Espalier. With the proper wines and Germanic dishes like Hay Roasted Rabbit with House Sausage, no tedious travel itineraries were necessary for this  region unknown to me. Nope, L’Espalier brought us on a delicious journey throughout the small but magnificent area of metropolitan France and boy oh boy, did it taste good.

I was happily invited to the first Zagat Present dinner, “An Evening in Alsace at L’Espalier,” where chefs and sommeliers thoroughly explained five courses and wine pairings with expertise with interesting facts and entertaining humor. Before starting the dinner, we were treated with a delightful amuse-bouche with incredible flavor; salmon, roe, creme fraiche, and dill foam. On the side was a crispy chip with foie gras mousse. I love how the bright flavors of such a small bite can jolt your taste buds to life.

First was an hors d’oeuvre of Tarte Flambée with Caviar paired with Lucien Albrecht, Brut Rosé, Cremant d’Alsace. The subtle savoriness of the tarte with a hint of saltiness from the caviar was a great way to segue into the array of flavors that were soon to be experienced.

First course was a Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with ash-roasted duck, pickled rhubarb and consommé. Served with a fruit and nut bread, this was a fabulous variety of textures; smooth and chewy, rich and gamey. The diverse components made for a unique and interesting dish where the forethought of it is much appreciated. The foie gras terrine was paired with a 2008 Schoenheitz, “Linsenberg” Riesling. 

The second course was Georges Bank Cod with Lobster and Maine Crab Emulsion, served with White Asparagus and paired with a 2006 Zind Humbrecht, “Clos Hausere” Riesling. With a beautifully crispy sear, the cod was amazingly moist and tender and the lobster was very sweet. The light flavors of this seafood dish were balanced perfectly, matching the wonderfully soft and refined presentation. The visual appeal was just as lovely as the taste.

The third course was Hay Roasted Rabbit with House Sausage, Black Pepper Spaetzle, Foraged Mushrooms and Charred Ramps. This was paired with a 2005 F.E. Trimbach, “Reserve Personelle” Pinor Noir. The tenderness of the rabbit was out of this world and the chewiness of the spaetzle was absolutely scrumptious. With the earthiness of the mushrooms? Forget about it! This hearty dish was definitely one of my favorites. I would love to have this meal again on a cold evening with the same glass of Pinot Noir.

And here is where we started the painful transition towards the end of the meal, with a very pungent and sharp Muenster that was paired with a 2009 Weinbach, Reserve Personnelle” Gewurztraminer. Served with a sweet bread and thinly sliced green apples, this is a cheese all stinky cheese lovers dream about. Against the soft texture is a rind that crackles upon biting. Yum!

And last was the dessert; Kugelhopf Pain Perdu with Vanilla Ice Cream. De-li-cious. Fantastic! It is part cake part bread with a slight crunch on the outside and raisins soaked in various alcohols. With the simple and complex taste of smooth vanilla ice cream, the components of the dish complimented each other very well.

It is safe to say that Zagat Present’s “An Evening in Alsace” was a successful dinner that showcased unforgettably elegant Alsatian food and wine. Thank you Zagat for this wonderful treat! It was lovely getting to know Alsace, France bite by delectable bite.

Disclosure: Meal was paid for by other party