"Hot Pot" Cuisine Comes to Savannah
Savannah and the surrounding area is becoming more known for its cuisine and foodie culture. You have plenty of places for delicious Southern cooking. There are a decent amount of burger and pizza joints, too. And, there are numerous places for fine dining for the fancier folks. However, there is one area that is lacking in Savannah, and that’s good Asian food. Don’t get me wrong. We have plenty of Chinese restaurants, Japanese Steakhouses, Thai food dives, and even a few Vietnamese restaurants thrown into the mix. There are a lot of “fusion” places too that mix Asian cooking styles with other styles and pan-Asian restaurants that offer multiple types of Asian cuisine. But how many of these restaurants are more than just satisfactory? More than just a place to go grab food and be full? I want a place that I can go to consistently and say “Wow. I love going here because it’s delicious, and I’m happy and full when I leave.” That doesn’t happen very often…at least with Asian food in this town. Take for example…Vietnamese food.
Vietnamese cuisine is hard to find in the Hostess City
I’m Vietnamese, so I feel like I know Vietnamese food pretty well. My mom and plenty of people in my family know how to cook Vietnamese food. I’ve been to Vietnam too, and tried food over there, and I’ve been to plenty of major cities where the variety is greater and the competition is more fierce. When it comes down to it, Vietnamese food is lacking in Savannah. Saigon on Broughton Street closed down because there were issues concerned with the owner’s passing. And that was the “fanciest” Vietnamese dining we had in town. Then, what’s left? Saigon Bistro near Waters and DeRenne (my favorite of the places we have here). Saigon Flavors on Waters next to Byrd Cookie. And their satellite location in the Savannah Mall. A few other places in town serve pho or banh mi sandwiches, too.
I digress… back to Splendid Shabu
So, when it was my cousin’s birthday, he heard about this “hot pot” place in Pooler called “Splendid Shabu.” Interesting name for sure. Shabu-shabu in Japanese refers to cooking thinly-sliced beef in boiling water. Think of fondue… but with broth and not cheese or chocolate… And that’s a oversimplification of what this Pooler restaurant offers. Here’s how Hot Pot works:
1) You choose your broth. I got the House Broth (it was a chicken-based broth… rather bland until you start adding things in). Everyone else decided on the spicy broth, which was a little more flavorful. This broth will then be served in a large pot that they’ll put on burners in front of you. You don’t share pots here; each person gets their own.
2) You choose your noodle. It’ll come uncooked, so you’ll have to stick it in the pot to boil and cook. I got Udon. My brother got glass noodles (thin clear noodles). The others got ramen noodles.
3) You get to choose what meat you want. The meat will come thinly sliced and raw. Seafood options are available, too. Shrimp for instance… and a mighty yummy fish. You cook it in the boiling broth as well. Worried about raw food contamination? They suggest dipping whatever utensil that touched the raw meat in the broth, which is hot enough to hopefully sanitize.
4) When you choose your meat, it comes with a vegetable plate that includes whatever’s fresh in the restaurant that day. That normally will include bok choy, cabbage, assorted mushrooms, and spinach. Sometimes you’ll get corn or broccoli, too. There’s also an a-la-carte section where you can choose additional offerings for a small charge per item.
5) They have a sauce bar where you can enjoy combinations of over a dozen different types of sauces. They also have chopped onions, minced garlic, and diced jalapeno for you to taste. Use these sauces to either flavor your broth more (which is what I did) and to dip your meats in after they’re cooked.
6) Once everything comes out, dip it in the hot pot and cook it to your heart’s content.
How was it?
I’ll have to be honest… I’m not much of a fan of hot pot food. To me, it tastes pretty bland, and it’s normally not filling. So on the way to “Splendid Shabu,” I already had reservations. I will say that I had a pleasant experience, but it didn’t change the way I feel about hot pot. I had to add a lot of onions and garlic and chili sauce into my broth to flavor it. It was almost like putting meat into just boiling hot water. You can imagine how bland that could be. I dipped my meats and vegetables into the sauces, and they were pretty good. The vegetables were great. Three different types of mushrooms were laid out on my plate, and all were enjoyable. Who knew there were so many fungi to choose from! The bok choy and cabbage was my favorite. The experience was great. The service was great as well. Our server was not too informed with the specifics of all of the food, but she was very attentive and helpful when it came to trying to turn on and off the burners on our table. The idea of dipping your own foods and choosing whatever sauces you want gives the food a personalized approach that you can customize to whatever you like. And the amount of food was pretty generous. I left pretty full. Price-wise, this isn’t a cheap lunch or dinner. Expect to pay at least around $15 per person, but you pay for food and a fun experience.
Overall, I think it’s a great addition to Pooler. It’s a new concept that many Savannahians and folks around here likely have not seen before. From reading the Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews, everyone who’s eaten there and compelled to write a review has said good things. And, the food is definitely a fresh, healthy alternative to the many fast food chains on Pooler Parkway. When we ate there at around 1PM, it was just us. They’ve been open for almost 2 months, so hopefully, the crowds will start coming in. They’re located right next to where the Tanger Outlets will open in about a year, so if they can hold on for long enough, they’ll definitely see more traffic in the area.
9 Mill Creek Circle in Pooler. If you’re looking at Sam’s Club, it’s on the right side where the Pita Pit used to be.