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BARRY KOLTNOW, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Christina and Mira perform nightly miracles, figuring how to fit the crowd into a limited number of seats.
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AfterWork: Shabu Shabu in Santa Ana

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Do you remember the "Seinfeld" episode in which Kramer came up with a plan to open a restaurant that would require customers to bake their own pizzas?

Jerry thought it was a terrible idea because he believed that people go out to restaurants specifically to avoid cooking their own dinner.

I have always agreed with Jerry, even in reruns, but then I came across Shabu Shabu in Santa Ana.

One of the hottest restaurants in the county is now more than two years old, and the people are lining up to cook their own meals.

Based on a 1,000-year-old Japanese cooking technique, diners sit at a bar and select a protein (beef, chicken, pork or seafood) as their main course. After grinding your own sesame seeds (it's fun), two sauces are placed in front of you, with the crushed seeds going into one of the sauces. A plate of vegetables and noodles is brought to your space, and you can begin cooking some of them in the pot of boiling water in front of you. Your protein comes, and when you finish with your entrée, everything left goes into the pot to create the highpoint of the meal – the soup. It's all about the soup.

I should point out that the servers are very helpful, and will guide newcomers through the process. Don't be intimidated

The restaurant has happy hour specials from 5:30-6:30 p.m., but on Wednesday, there is a special happy hour if you first check in on Yelp or Facebook. It's worth it – lots of free sake.

The cuisine is compatible with vegan and vegetarian diets, but not for gluten-free palates (soy sauce is used as a base).

Oh, by the way, Shabu Shabu means "swish swish," which is the sound that you make as you swish your food around the boiling pot of seasoned water.

Contact the writer: 714-796-5051, ext. 1110, or bkoltnow@ocregister.com


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