It is really strange that Singaporeans really love their hotpot considering how warm the weather is. There was even a short queue outside newly-opened hotpot restaurant Shabu Sai at Orchard Central (right opposite Kiseki Buffet). Hotpot brings people together. Hotpot brings out gossips, I mean conversations.
Nevermind its mildly offensive name when called in Hokkien, Shabu Sai is an all-you-can-eat, Japanese buffet restaurant, with Shabu-Shabu, Sukiyaki and sushi. All I know is the words ‘buffet’ and ‘meats’ can invite Singaporeans down in droves. (“Sai” means vegetables.)
First impressions were positive. Loved its food presentation, quite artfully done with wooden Japanese labels. I got slightly excited at the variety of fresh vegetables, sushi, mini-chirashi dons and meat stuffed in bamboo. (The parent company also owns Chiso Zanmai and Hifumi -both known to offer budget Japanese food.)
There are 7 soup bases to choose from, including some monthly specials such as Yuzu Salt Beauty which is their signature ‘Collagen’ soup and Spicy Kimchi. Talk about the C word, and ladies would delight how hotpot can bring beauty to faces. Not.
At Shabu Sai, let me tell you which soup bases to try, and which to avoid big time.
The Sukiyaki soup base is the safest choice, probably the broth that can bring out the tastes of the sliced US beef, South American pork and Brazilian chicken. The best things in the entire restaurant are these meats really, coming mid-thinly sliced in huge black square serving trays.
People will be divided on the Curry Dashi soup base. This thick orangey soup totally reminds me of how my instant noodle (that M brand) would taste like if I pour many many packets of the curry powder within, except that Shabu Sai’s version is more concentrated.
The rest? Tonkotsu Shoyu Soup was exceptionally salty, Yuzu Salt Beauty relentlessly salty, and Spicy Soup irrevocably salty.
The Tomato soup is just weird (still salty) and Seaweed soup like seaweed added to plain water (the consolation is that it is not so salty). I thought it could only be me as I may have a lower tolerance, but every single one on the other table felt the M invasion.
To give them the benefit of the doubt, I tried another pot and the supposed same soup was not THAT salty. Ah, the lack of consistency. Still I must have drunk at least 10 glasses of green tea because I was beyond thirsty, still feeling the same after I got home.
A pity as the meats were indeed quite inviting. But soup should always be the main priority. There is free flow of drinks and soft serve ice cream at an additional $1.99++. You will probably need it.
Updated: A friend went back to Shabu Sai and said the broth was quite comforting and delicious, especially the curry soup. She told me every restaurant deserves a 2nd chance.
Weekday Lunch: Adult $16.99++, Child $9.99++
Weekday Dinner: Adult $24.99++, Child $9.99++
Weekend Lunch: Adult $19.99++, Child $9.99++
Weekend Dinner: Adult $29.99++, Child $9.99++