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by Merle Exit

“Unique” would be the word to describe Spring Shabu-Shabu, a “hot pot” restaurant in downtown Flushing. “Hot pot” is a style of food preparation at many Asian eateries where you sit at a table and cook your meal in a broth. Let me just share my experience.

Spring Shabu-Shabu is located at 136-20 38th Avenue and manager Jay Yang is skillfully in charge. It is on the second floor of the building known as Queens Crossing. Quite large but I hear that it can get quite crowed at peak hours being wonderfully popular, particularly with the Asian population. There are several eateries in this building, so you have to follow the signs.

I went with a friend as it may be difficult to dine alone. First step…we chose a broth. Soup bases are: dashi, dried fish and vegetable stock; spicy dashi (spicy radish strips added); pork bone; spicy pork bone – chili oil, red chilies, and Chinese herbs; vegetarian- mushrooms and vegetables. I opted for the pork bone while Nancy chose the vegetarian.

Your proteins are ordered off the menu (if you so desire). Here are the prices. Chicken – 7 oz. $4. Other meats – fatty beef, non-fatty beef, prime beef are $4 for 5 oz. $6 for 4oz. ribeye beef, $6 for4 oz. pork, tripe, 4oz- $4, lamb 5oz.-$4. Seafood options include shrimp – 8 pieces for lunch for $5 or 12 pieces for dinner at $7. A 14 oz seafood combo of shrimp, clams, squid, baby octopus, whitefish and crab is $5 for lunch. Shrimp is more like prawn with the heads on…which we placed on our list. All meats are thinly sliced and meant to be cooked a short time. We ordered chicken and prime beef. Crabs were another item that I couldn’t resist. But wait!

Off to what was the longest buffet of vegetables, noodle products, tofu and dumplings. I have not even experienced seeing this amount of a variety of vegetables at any Asian grocery. Just to get an idea…white sweet potatoes, lotus root, Kabocha squash, various cabbages and a variety of mushrooms. Thank goodness they are labeled and more importantly, fresh. Nothing wilted, etc. I grabbed a plate walked around and filled it up for the first run. There is another area just for sauces both mild and spicy. You grab a bowl and can mix up a few if you want.

Back at the table to cook and enjoy sharing a small bottle of sake. You are given a large spoon and slotted spoon along with chop sticks or fork and knife if you wish. Placed some of the cooked food on mycurved metal plate, dipped into the sauce using my chop sticks and the flavors of the combination of soup that is produced along with obviously fresh meats and fish is beyond ones idea of savory food.

This is an all you can stuff yourself buffet which means I could not only keep going back but try produce that I don’t usually eat. We both took advantage of this opportunity to “exercise.” With the buffet having dumplings that contain meat, I realized that it was not necessary to order other meats or seafood but certainly fun and great tasting. Crabs (heads removed and cleaned) are just about large enough to get a decent amount of meat and easy to crack. Nancy found them to be messy. More for me.

A Shabu-Shabu experience here was certainly not without service. Our server brought and replenished the broths (which cannot be changed in midstream). He saw to it that the used dishes were removed and both tea and water glasses/cups were refilled. As for leftovers….the restaurant does not use plastic which means that you cannot take the soup home to your “dog.” They will, however, bring an aluminum container so you can scoop out the solids. Ate them the next day….cold! OMG!Soft ice cream is the only dessert…. fine with both of us!

Interesting to have found out that the tea is not made from tea leaves but a combination of barley and corn from Korea (oksusubori-cha.) I guess it would be classified as being “herbal.” Aside from the never ending tea…beer, wine, sake, soju (a Korean alcohol made from rice) and soft drinks are available. With assistance from our server, I opted for 300ml of cold sake in the category of Junmai, called Kaga Setsubai described as, “pure rice sake that is aromatic and light with a smooth finish.” Sake can be pricey as wine would be. Here the cold sake prices range from $15 to $31 for 300ml; $31 to $73 for 750 ml.

Meal prices? Lunch special weekdays – $11.95, 11:30am to 3pm ; weekends and holidays, $15.95. Everyday dinner – $16.95. Lunch on a weekday is a bargain at $13 that includes the tax. If you are thinking, “Why would I pay $13 for lunch?” Change your habit for the day and think of lunch as “dinner.” Open until 10pm. For further information call: 718-395-8076. No…they do not take reservations.


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