Restaurant Review: Shaba Shabu (Durham location)

Saturday night, after my return from Orlando, Mike and I decided to try out Shaba Shabu, the new Thai/Japanese restaurant on Durham-Chapel Hill Road in the old Macaroni Grill location. Someone told me that the Raleigh location was awesome, and we thought it would be great to discover a new Asian place close to the house.

We went over there around 8pm. It was pretty empty when we arrived. We walked in to the front desk, and the woman behind the desk didn't even acknowledge our presence. She was doing something on the computer, and our arrival was not going to stop her from whatever she was doing. I stood there for a minute, looked at Mike, looked back at the woman and finally said, "Excuse me - may we have a table for two?" She then looked up, smiled, and said, "Sure." She came out from the desk and walked us over to a booth.

I must say that the interior of the building looks great. It has the same Macaroni Grill stone walls, but it works for the ambiance of a Thai/Japanese place. The colors were great - blacks, golds, reds, and the huge Buddha statue at the back of the room is striking. We were able to admire the decor for quite a while, as we didn't get any service for about 5 minutes or so. Several folks passed our table, but no one ever stopped. Eventually, a guy came out from the back and asked if we would like something to drink.

Mike asked what was in the "Shabatini", which I assume is the restaurant's signature drink. The waiter had no clue. He had to go ask the bartender. When he came back, his response was something like, "It can be made with rum or vodka and it has some pineapple and cranberry juice." Wow. Sounds awesome. Mike decided to pass and ordered a "Saketini" instead. I got a glass of plum wine. They brought us some water while we waited on our drinks, and the water came in some trendy rectangular shaped glasses. We finally got our drinks, and the saketini had a really nice presentation - great glassware and some shaved ginger in the glass. The drink was fine, but not WOW. My plum wine was, well, plum wine.

Mike and I decided to order fairly light, so we each got a salad (he a house salad with the ginger dressing and me a seaweed salad), and we both ordered a couple of sushi rolls. The salads came out quickly and had beautiful presentation. We also received our sushi shortly after, and that too was fairly good. Nothing was awesome, but it also wasn't bad.

The part that was bad was the check. For the price we paid, we easily could have gone to Kanki (a Brady favorite), done the fix priced menu at Vin Rouge or even Rue Cler - yet the food wasn't nearly as exciting. Would I go back to Shaba Shabu? Maybe. As the folks at Carpe Durham put it, "we’d go back if someone else was paying." (click on the Carpe Durham link to read their review and see some pics)

I'm on the fence about this place. I would like to meet the ladies out for some drinks and get one of the cool traditional seating tables in the middle of the restaurant sometime, but that's about it. Saturday may have been my first and last trip to Shaba Shabu! The service kinks will hopefully get worked out - but the pricing just isn't worth what you get. I'll take Mt Fuji over Shaba.


Teresa said...

My children (15 and 17) went to Shaba Shabu May 30. They said the food was terrible and the check was huge! They split 1 order of gyoza, had 2 entrees and 2 sodas and the bill was $47.00! They brought home leftovers which my husband ate and said it was some of the worst food he had ever eaten.

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