Minni’s Shabu Shabu & Lunar New Year Feast
Oh, blessed gluttony. R and I got to spend Lunar New Year with both sides of our family. On Friday, we celebrated at his aunt’s in New Jersey, happily stuffing ourselves with all sorts of traditional, authentic Chinese food, mostly from the Southern region where lobster, crab, oyster and seafood soup (seafood…anything, really) reign supreme. We washed that down with some champagne and white wine on hand for the imbibers. 😉
Disclaimer: Our 11-year-old relative drank the non-alcoholic Sparkling Cider, and our preggers cousin was sipping on cranberry juice – and not what looked like red wine.
The following day, R and I then followed that up with hot pot in Flushing at Minni’s Shabu Shabu with my family. I hadn’t had shabu shabu here since I was a youngster, perhaps in middle school. For the uninitiated, shabu shabu, or hotpot, is native to many East Asian cultures. Though the ingredients may vary slightly by country, you basically start with a simmering cooking pot filled with stock. While the hot pot is heating up, you place ingredients into it. All of this cooking is done at the dining table – not in a kitchen.
Typically, hot pot ingredients include leafy vegetables, seafood, thinly sliced meat and mushrooms. It is a fun group activity since you must continuously watch the pot and remove what is cooked as you go along – then consume it without burning your tongue! You can keep adding more ingredients and take turns cooking, if you like. At Minni’s Shabu Shabu, our place settings came with individual portions of lettuce, squash, mushrooms, several different kinds of fish balls, bean sprouts, clear cellophane noodles, tofu and other delicious items.
Years ago, my family used to like dining at the now-closed Sweet-n-Tart Café next door, and we came to Minni’s once, possibly because the other restaurant was closed. I remember it being a cold day, which is really the best kind of weather to be consuming hot pot. It may be bristly outside, but indoors you’ll be quickly warmed by the steam and hearth of the boiling water and bubbling hot pot ingredients.
A ordered the Seafood Shabu Shabu and eventually finished it all but boy was it filling! Her tray came complete with crab, shrimp, clams, scallops, squid and fish. Later that evening, she passed on dessert (which is a huge thing for someone who can usually finish off that cheesecake or pastry in no time!). Her dish ended up being a great value.
As for me, I love all things Korean cuisine, so I was game for the Kimchi & Beef Shabu Shabu. Since my order wasn’t a combo, it came with one less tray of meat and left me a mite hungry (most of my family members ordered a combination of meats, such as “beef and pork,” “chicken and lamb”, etc.). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the spicy broth – though I did ask the server to pour in a dollop of non-spicy broth to tone down the kimchi heat a bit.
Young J appeared to be having a great time sloshing the meats inside his boiling hotpot. I could see him smiling eagerly as he watched his meat turn from red to light brown within seconds. Grandpa remarked that since his particular hotpot heating mechanism didn’t seem to have an adjustable heat panel like the rest of ours, his meat would always end up being overcooked. 😛 Even still, I could tell he enjoyed his meal by the empty tray he left behind at the end.
The décor at Minni’s Shabu Shabu is much improved from yesteryear. In the entrance area, the deep brown undertones of the wood with slatted panels afford a sense of privacy from the guest dining area. One thing we forgot about was the dipping sauces! I only noticed them later when I got up to use the restroom behind our table: a long countertop laden with sauces, from hoisin to Sriracha, divided the first floor seating area from the Bar Shabu Shabu basement below, which is under the same umbrella ownership as Minni’s. Too bad we didn’t ask about the sauces earlier on — although personally I was just fine with my spicy kimchi broth, so I didn’t feel my hot pot was lacking in flavor.
The eclectic selection of Noh(?) masks on the wall contributed to the relaxed, zen atmosphere. My mom remarked that the overall setting reminded her of the Japanese aesthetic, and she may be right.
With good food, reasonable prices and an inviting ambience, my family was able to enjoy each other’s company and ring in the New Year with cheer! Service was quick for the most part, though we came early around 5:10pm and didn’t have to wait for a table. That was a good call because an hour later the restaurant was already starting to swarm with a long line of down coat-covered bodies hovering in the entrance, peering at us through the slat walls. Each person waiting for their turn at hot pot.
Hurrah for Minni’s!
Minni’s Shabu Shabu
136-17 38th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
Neighborhoods: Downtown Flushing, Flushing