The Secret Shabu-Shabu of Hiro's Yakko-San

John Zur
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Shabu-shabu is a Japanese variation of hot pot in which thinly sliced beef and vegetables are cooked in hot water. In restaurants that serve it, the guest is provided the

mise en place

to cook at the table. While the dish is common on the West Coast, it has yet to pick up steam (no pun intended) here on the East. There is at least one local Japanese restaurant serving shabu-shabu that we know of -- but

Hiro's Yakko-San

doesn't advertise it.

You won't find it on the menu. They generally don't even speak about offering it. How I came across it during a simple search online. Hiro's Yakko-San, known for serving up reasonably priced Japanese food, especially during late night hours, serves about one request every three months, a server told me. That;s odd because from the start, the experience was fun and different.

Our meal started not with the shabu-shabu, but one of the day's specials: a kingfish ginger scallion ($12.50) marinated in sake, mirin, and a touch of soy sauce. It wasn't the only piece of satisfying fish ordered. The sea bass miso ($13.50) is grilled and marinated in miso; it's as perfectly prepared a piece of sea bass as I've ever eaten. Both pieces of fish were so flavorful and cooked just right.

John Zur
King Fish Ginger Scallion

The preparations for the shabu-shabu, which is priced at $35 per person, minimum of two people, began with the portable gas stove being set up. Then came the dipping sauces of peanut and ponzu. Our server was asked how many times he has prepared shabu-shabu. He said only about ten times in the three years he has worked there.

Next came the basket vegetables including cabbage, a variety of mushrooms, carrots, scallions, tofu, and noodles. An initial plate of sliced beef was then presented. The server informed us that a second plate would be held in the kitchen until requested. The pot of water was brought to a boil, the server dropped a few vegetables in, and then handed over the reins.

As the steam rose up from the pot, the closest diners in the packed house looked on with curiosity; some even asked what we had ordered.

John Zur
Boiling Pot with Vegetables & Beef

Just a couple of minutes is all it takes for the meat and vegetables to cook. Once done, you can dip the meat and vegetables into either sauce and eat. Our preference is to dip the meat in the ponzu, delivering a marinated quality, and reserve the peanut sauce for the vegetables. Between plates of meat, we had to request that our murky pot of water be changed.

All in all, it's an enjoyable experience and a thrill to cook at your table. So call ahead and be sure to make reservations for Hiro's Yakko-San's shabu-shabu at least 48 hours in advance. And don't be surprised when they ask for a credit card to hold your reservation, as special ingredients must be ordered for the meal and they want to discourage no-shows.

John Zur

Hiro's Yakko-San is open Sunday through Thursday 6pm to 2am, and Friday & Saturday 6pm to 3am. Open seven days per week.

Hiro's Yakko-San
17040-46 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach

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