That there is nothing more fun than an evening of shabu shabu is a claim I will stubbornly maintain till the end. Please, it even sounds fun. How could such Japan-authored merriment not be available on Long Island? Also puzzling: why we would finally get a shabu shabu place in November of 2020, when fun evenings in restaurant dining rooms are at the very top of the endangered experience list? And yet I have nothing but love for JBBQ & Shabu Shabu, which opened just last week. The rows of gleaming silver exhaust pipes suspended above cooktops in its festive red-and-yellow dining room were all it took to convince me that better days are coming.
JBBQ’s amusing palette and its dedication to amusing palates give the place a theme park feel that’s only heightened by the all-you-can-eatery’s price of admission — one fee for adults, a second for children younger than five feet, and a third for the 36-inch-and-shorter set. As such, it’s a Bay Shore coaster with height restrictions and ups and downs — but mostly ups.
Like the name implies, JBBQ is a two-pronged effort, or rather two-tonged. For both the shabu shabu and barbecue — actually a Japanese style of grilling meat known as yakiniku — the kitchen sends out your choice of thinly-sliced raw meats and vegetables, along with the aforementioned tongs, one to dunk and cook them in a richly flavorful broth (shabu shabu, named for the swishing sound made thereby), and one to drop them onto your table’s sizzling hot griddle (yakiniku). The cost for adults is $25.99 for 90 minutes of all-you-can-eat shabu shabu, $31.99 for barbecue, and $34.99 for both. I didn’t spy a tape measure but have been advised that properly-sized children will indeed pay less.
DO NOT WASTE FOOD commands the menu like a furious mom, and it’s easy to see why. There are 18 different meats from which to choose and six vegetables — and that’s just on the yakiniku side. You can slosh and boil 37 items — including pork/chicken balls, lobster balls and beef balls, fish and shrimp pastes (the latter is excellent), four kinds of mushrooms, two kinds of tripe, mussels, clams and a quail egg — in five different broths, from curry to tomato to "healthy herbs."
The drink list is similarly overachieving, with Japanese sodas for the kids and a large selection of beers, wines, cocktails and Soonhari soju for the not-kids. That last, by the way, a Korean beverage distilled from rice and tapioca, comes in flavors with harmless names like strawberry, peach and apple, and — well, let’s just say that it punches above its weight.
Shabu newbies should be advised that suggested cooking times are given for each and every menu item, and JBBQ’s exceptional staff is friendly, instructive and above all, patient. Is 90 minutes a criminally short amount of time to cook your way through JBBQ’s mammoth menu? Of course. But that’s shabus, folks.
JBBQ & Shabu Shabu is at 11 E. Main St. in Bay Shore, 631-647-7777, jbbqrestaurant.com. Opening hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.