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Shaba Shabu

Posted by YAR 14 May 2009 22 Comments

Shaba Shabu (4020 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd) is the second location of this upscale Thai-Japanese restaurant and lounge, the first being in Raleigh.

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The first mistake we made was to look at the wrong menu online (the Raleigh version) and then get excited about several dishes that they didn’t offer at the Durham location.  Conspicuously absent, considering the restaurant’s name, was Shabu Shabu.  Once we adjusted our expectations, though, we got a pretty good meal (but perhaps not worth the price).

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We started with the sashimi appetizer (six pieces, $8.49), which was very fresh.

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The chicken red curry ($13.99) was also good–it was a bit light on vegetables, but the sauce itself was rich and tasty (though we didn’t like it any more than nearby Twisted Noodles’ version, which costs five bucks less).  We’re still searching for “the bomb” Thai curry in the Triangle–any suggestions?

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We also got the Pla Sam Rod (fried red snapper with a spicy sauce and vegetables, $14.99), which was my favorite dish of the evening.  The dish wasn’t exceptionally spicy, and in fact most of the sauce was very sweet and needed to be cut with the spicier sauce on the side, but the two mixed together was a nice combo.  This dish also had plenty of vegetables, which were fresh and well cooked.

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This place is definitely going for atmosphere–it was very dark, the music was loud, and there was even a dj perched high above the dining area–all a bit over the top for our tastes but well executed for what it is.  Our service was less than ideal (for some reason our entrees came out about 10 minutes apart), but we won’t hold that against them just yet since they were newly opened when we went.  Maybe if they get enough requests they’ll even start offering Shabu Shabu!  All in all it was a nice evening–we’d go back if someone else was paying or if they added their namesake dish to the menu.

22 Comments »

  • christopher said:

    One of my favorite restaurants in boston’s chinatown was Kaze which had the best shabu shabu. Imagine my excitement when I misread the name of this place while driving down 15/501. Thanks for the review.

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  • GinnySkal said:

    I work about 1/4 mile from Shaba-Shabu in Raleigh. I bet I’ve been there about 5-7 times. EVERY TIME service has been horrible. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s busy or slow. I’ve been there for dinner twice too, and experienced the same poor service as at lunch. The food is tasty, but a couple of my co-workers have joined me in an official ban b/c of the poor service. I’m sorry, I feel very strongly about this. But perhaps the one in Durham will improve (and maybe the one in Raleigh already has, I’ll never know b/c I won’t go back).

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  • apathy said:

    I also had the chicken red curry when I went a few weeks back, it was ok, but not worth the price. The darkness and the loud music was a little strange, and I kept fixating on the old macaroni grill walls. I liked the location in Raleigh better, having been dragged there for some school function. The menus were different, but I feel like the one in Durham is more expensive. Although this could have been because my tax return cash has run out.

    Either Thai Cafe or Twisted Noodles seems to be a better option, its cheaper, and the chicken red curry at both is passible.

    The red curry duck, from the back page, at the Thai Cafe is pretty awesome. They say thats its been slow cooked over night, I’m not sure if it is the case, but the duck is pretty melt in your mouth tender. The only problem is that its around 16$ or so, which makes it kind of expensive, for my budget at least. In their defense, you do get a lot of duck, so presumably you could enjoy the leftovers or split it with someone. Although when I get it, i rarely feel like sharing.

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  • bart said:

    My favorite curry (and Thai food in general) is in north Raleigh at Sawasdee. http://sawasdeerestaurant.com/

    I’ve been to Shaba Shabu in Raleigh a dozen times or so, and the Durham location 4 or 5. I agree the atmosphere is a bit much, but they have some good lunch specials. And their miso soup is surprising good.

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  • Mike said:

    Agree with Sawasee, and will also recommend ThaiLanna, on 54/55 as a great place for Thai curries of all kinds.

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  • Tooth said:

    I went to Shaba Shabu a few weeks ago. The food was fine but Thai Cafe, Twisted Noodles, and Thai Lanna are soooo much better.

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  • FoodDude said:

    I’ve eaten here a couple of times, and the service has been fine. Like others, I find the food tasty but expensive, and feel the “style” of the place is a bit over the top.

    My biggest peeve, however, is the chopsticks. I know the clunky metal ones are probably trendy and cool, but they are heavy and hurt to use for an entire meal. They’d do better to stock some normal wooden or plastic ones for those of us more concerned with eating than looking good doing it.

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  • Molly Jean said:

    is this in the TJMaxx/Chili’s shopping center? must try it out! yum!

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  • Wesley said:

    It further north right across from Sams near the big green pickle building.

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  • Michael Snipes said:

    First of all about a week ago my gf and I decided to go here spur of the moment.

    1. Grass was not mowed
    2. they had a rating or 90
    3. no Hostess anywhere when we walked in
    4. A gaggle of waitstaff around a workstation thatnever looked up

    We stood there for a few min. and NO ONE made an effort…..even with the hostess not being where she was suppose to be!!!!

    5. Hostess (I think) comes running out saying “Don’t you guys want to eat??!?!” I said “No Thanks” and we left.

    They just need to go ahead and close. What a load of crap.

    We should have just made the effort to go over to Mo Mo Yama’s at South Point. The sushi, the service, and the health rating are incredible there!!!

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  • Steve Graff said:

    It’s sad that yet another restaurant here in Durham is suffering from the same problems – poor service, OK (not great food), and high prices.

    I’ll probably try this place since I’m not satisfied with Thai Cafe (poor service, they ALWAYS overcook chicken, and $18.95 for Pineapple Fried Rice which is insane) We have only been to Twisted Noodle once so maybe it’s time to try it again.

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  • Gerald said:

    Mediocre food, high prices, worse wait staff experience ever. Ridiculous square cups are so awkward. Macaroni grill walls with weird buddha furnishings were quite distracting.

    Friend ordered hamachi (white colored tuna), they brought out magaro scraps with nasty blood lines everywhere! We told the waiter this is not hamachi, and he insisted that it really was hamachi. Total waste of an evening.

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  • Chops said:

    I will be the third to recommend Sawasdee. Most die hard Thai fans consider it the best.

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  • Robust McManlyPants said:

    Thai-China on 55, just south of the intersection with NC 54 (in the same shopping center as Food Lion, Kinko’s, El Dorado, etc.) has excellent Thai Curry. During weekday lunches they have a buffet but at night it’s less crowded and the entrees really shine.

    Thai Lanna, mentioned above and just a little further south on NC 55, is also very good.

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  • barry said:

    we went during the “soft opening” a month or so ago on our way to Cat’s Cradle to see Robyn Hitchcock. We walked in about 90 minutes before show time and barely made it to Carrboro in time for the show.

    Service was impossibly slow, but i didn’t hold it too badly against them since it was a soft opening. But bringing the wrong appetizer, and then bringing the right appetizer after we had already finished our meal was pretty amateurish.

    The music was loud enough that dinner conversation was impossible. Sorry to read that they’ve decided this is a plus.

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  • guest said:

    Not quite thai curry, but compared to all mediocre thai places, green curry at Jujube wins the day for me.

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  • durhamfood said:

    anything at Jujube. Absolutely anything :)

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  • pbc said:

    Ambiance here is weird, especially if you’ve been around long enough to know that it’s built in an old Macaroni Grill. The Tuscan Italian architecture with the Asian decor is bizarre. Food was good, but as has been said, overpriced.

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  • foodgurl said:

    i was there last week. I don’t know if it’s just me. but this place is pretty good. Actually, it’s REALLY good. We don’t have much authentic thai/japanese food around durham. this place does it for me. also i found out that the owner (chef charles prepares the food himself). His wife is from northern thailand. they sure can cook thai food there.

    sushi tastes just like ones from shabashabu raleigh and sushi blues cafe. after all, i think the same guy make the sauce lol

    i would reccommend this place.

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    mike replies on July 9th, 2009 at 9:38 am:

    Panang Curry at Thai Cafe is my fave, although Sawasdee is yummy as well. Can’t help but feel the macaroni grill vibe in this place. The food was more expensive and not as good as the thai cafe, so I probably won’t go back. It kind of felt like panang, with a bunch of stuff on the menu that is neither here nor there. It’s so much nicer when restaurants do a few things really well- and not a hundred things so so. They also don’t have shaba shabu which is ridiculous if that’s the name of your restaurant.

    Go La Vaquita!!!! Sorry, i can’t help it. I just love that place so much.

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  • egl said:

    Wow! I’m shocked about these postings after the experience we had last evening. We had a fantastic meal, attentive service, and thought the redone Macaroni Grill was very fun! The sushi roll was some of the best I’ve had and we both loved our entrees. All of the food ingredients were very fresh tasting. There was no loud music, so they must have heard everyone’s opinion on that aspect.

    Unfortunately, that location and the former Grady’s are so awkward to navigate. Surely, something could be done to allow easier access.

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  • Linda said:

    I left my camera at this restaurant and it was never returned.

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