Shabu Sai @ Orchard Central

Jumping on the bandwagon of steamboat and Japanese buffet restaurants is Shabu Sai – a Japanese steamboat buffet restaurant (pardon the repetition of words). With a total of 7 soup bases, the diversity is great as long as it doesn’t leave you and your friends bickering over which to choose. Thank goodness, you’re entitled to 2 soup choices per pot!

The menu shows clearly a step-by-step instruction in enjoying your steamboat meal. I have forgotten to take a photo of my hotpot but my table chose B) Sukiyaki Soup and F) Tonkotsu Shoyu Soup. The former was good for dipping the meat slices while the latter served as a good broth for noodles. The soups may get saltier with time and that’s when the container of plain water comes in handy! You can add as much or as little water into your soup to suit your preference of saltiness. My table had also topped up $1.99/pax to enjoy free flow drinks and soft serve ice cream. Apart from the usual soft drinks, there are green tea and barley tea too!

Spread of sushis as ‘appetizers’. I skipped this entire section apart from the Mini Salmon Don below and a piece of Tempura Prawn Sushi (which was cold).

Mini (/puny) Salmon Don – I dislike my sashimi lukewarm as they should be kept cold and served from the fridge. Unless you don’t mind subpar sushis, I say skip this section.

Sauces & Garnishes – The usual Japanese sauces like Sesame Sauce and Ponzu Sauce were present. Less expected were garnishes such as minced raw garlic, chilli padi and parsley which are the standards in Chinese steamboats. I do think I have a flair in making steamboat sauces (Read: Hai Di Lao Steamboat) as my mixture of Sesame Sauce, Sesame Oil, Ponzu Sauce, Spring Onion and Sesame Seed was splendid!

What appealed to me was how Shabu Sai had their plethora of ingredients displayed! The small wooden planks were each printed with the names of the ingredients, placing emphasis on their Japanese wordings and stuck behind each bowl. It felt as though I was shopping for food in a Japanese market! I also liked how the ‘mist’ does a part in ensuring the freshness of food, besides the visual effect it provided. The selection of vegetables and mushrooms were good and I liked how the white radishes were sliced into thin squares which allowed short cooking time.

Selection of Black Mussels, Squid, Prawns; Fish Balls, Prawn Balls, Vegetable Balls; Minced Seasoned Chicken in Bamboo.

I was delighted to find the seafood fresh! The prawns were springy with a crunch, something that I seldom find in steamboat buffets. They were so yummy that my table kept going back for more. I loved their mussels too. The minced meat was well-seasoned but somehow the texture was pretty off as they looked and tasted uncooked despite being in the pot the whole time.

Trays of Sliced Beef, Pork and Chicken with unlimited servings! These trays of meat are delivered to the table only upon requests to maintain high hygiene standards and freshness. As you can see, the meats were so thinly-sliced that they were translucent – perfect for shabu-shabu. I especially enjoyed the pork and beef which were very tender and not even tough when left forgotten in the pot. Meat lovers will definitely enjoy them!

Ramen, Udon and Soba to accompany the meat and rich broth. Tip for the eggs – to achieve a perfect onsen egg, cook it for exactly 6 minutes in the boiling soup!

This was the only dessert available and if you didn’t top up the $1.99 for dessert and drinks, I’m afraid there are no fruits/desserts for you at the end of the meal. Be it a marketing tactic to encourage you to add on $1.99 or for other reasons, I feel that this is a rather weird practice. That aside, the soft serve ice cream was pretty good in my opinion! It tasted more like froyo (frozen yoghurt) than the usual creamy ice cream. I added caramel sauce and rainbow sprinkles to mine – simplicity at its best!

Shabu Sai is a great place where groups of friends and family get together for a hearty steamboat meal. Other Japanese steamboat restaurants may have an edge over Shabu Sai with the price difference but I’m a strong believer that you pay for the quality you get. It was quite crowded when I was there on a Tuesday night, so I foresee full house on weekends!

[UPDATE: I was reading the reviews on hungrygowhere and I definitely think that Shabu Sai took in suggestions and refined certain aspects, such as adding the water kettle on the table. I’m glad that it has improved since opening.]

Prices as follows:
Weekday Lunch: Adult $16.99
Weekend Lunch: Adult $19.99
Weekday Dinner: Adult $24.99
Weekend Dinner: Adult $29.99
Child: $9.99++

Shabu Sai 

#08-09, Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
Tel: 6884 6760


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