Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Fusion Confusion

Shabu Shi Logo

The food wasn't fusion – the restaurant was.

For me, one of the highlights of the Spring Festival so far was last night's dinner. Largely because of the company, but alsoto an extent because of the eating experience. An old and dear friend was visiting Liuzhou and, as we had long planned, we set out to try a restaurant I first spotted several months back.

Shabu Shi

It is called Shabu Shi, which I am told is derived from Shabu(-Shabu) and (Su)shi, which of course would give you the impression that you have hit on a Japanese joint. Inspecting the premises would bear that out. A glance through the windows reveals a long (very long) conveyor belt with diners perched on stools grabbing the passing small dishes. Got to be Japanese!

So we wander in. A very young looking (as in 12 years old) waitress greets us and guides us toseating stations nos 60 and 61, then explains the concept. I tend to be wary of restaurants that have a 'concept' which requires explaining. "Give me my dinner and I will eat it" is the only concept I need, but her advice turns out to be good.

First, she explains that this is really a Japanese style hotpot restaurant (note the word 'style' there. I shall return to this!) and she requires to know which of two hotpot soup bases we prefer – 'plaintraditional' or 'hot and sour'.Being the two of us, we go for one of each. We are sharers. Then she needs to know which type of dip we want from the extensive choice of two. Hot (as in spicy) or hot and sour. Being the two of us, we go for one of each. We are sharers.

She then explains that there are two types of plates on the conveyor belt just in front of us. Black plates and red plates. Black plates contain hot pot ingredients – i.e. things needing cooking in the soup. It is then that I notice that each diner has a little hot pot bowl recessed into the counter and that there is a temperature control just at my waist level.Soup arrives. My companion's is decidedly white, while mine is decidedly yellowy-red. As the waitress poursmy choice from her pot to mine, I distinctly heard her say something about it being "Thai Flavoured".

My eating station

Red plates, we are told,contain pre-cooked (or meant to be eaten raw) foods. I spot that the black plates outnumber the red by at leastten to one.

Train to Nowhere

She also points out that there is a hotplate self-service section in the centre of the restaurant which we may wish to visit. And that drinks are self service from the other side of the restaurant – a good few minutes hike away! Unfortunately diners are not permitted to ride the conveyor belt to get to the drink station.

So, my friend and I get the hotpot things on max heat, throw in a few of the things we judge will take longer to cook, and grab a few of the few red plates to keep us going. The only problem we had was that a fairly large number of the black plate dishes were unidentifiable and nothing was labelled in any language. So we try random things we like the look of and avoid random things we don't like the look of. But there are plenty of recognisable things, too. Meat, seafood, vegetation, noodles. We tend tofocus onclams, oysters, mussels and other crustaceans, but also throw in a bit of everything. We decide our choice of different stock bases was a good idea. Some things taste better in one stock than in another.

What puzzles meat this point is how the ever efficient waiting staff keep clearing away our little plates as soon as weempty them into the stock bowls. In my experience of Japaneseconveyor belt restaurants, plates are left till the end, in order to calculate the final (usually exorbitant) bill. Not here, apparently.

In a moment of madness, I wander off to visit the hotplate section. Most of the dishes had long gone (despite it being a good three hours before the restaurant's advertised closing time), but I did find some very good spring rolls.

Spring Rolls

Then, a few minutes later, I saw one of the cooks place something beside the hotplate which was certainly neither cooked nor hot. A tray of ice covered in sashimi. I hot-footed it over there and loaded up.


It was around then that I started to become concerned about the mechanics of the billing system. We were stuffing ourselves with food which they couldn't possible know we were eating. Were there secret cameras recording every mouthful and updating our bill?

Then we discovered something we probably should have checked on the way in. It turns out the place onlyoperates a fixed price 'eat all you can' system! So we started all over again. I think I visited the sashimi stall more often than was dignified, but no one batted an eyelid. My companion went nuts just trying everything till she complained that she was so full it was painful!

All for a mere 78* a head. Discounts available! Kids under 130 cm and the over 70s of any height gettheir fillfor apaltry 48.

We eventually staggered out and when I got home, I discovered that the company is actually Thai! Yes, a Thai Japanese restaurant in China. A Chinese Thai Japanese restaurant. That explains the mumbled 'it's Thai soup' comment earlier, but not the distinctly Cantonese element which my (Chinese) companion and I had noted (all the piped music was old Cantonese pop and there was little on the conveyor belt that would be out of place in any Cantonese restaurant). There was certainly nothing Thai about it.)

Despite all the confusion,we had a great time and a (minor) change of diet for once. But I'd still like to come across areal Japanese restaurant in Liuzhou! Or, even better, areal or ersatz Thai one!

Shabu Shi is at 112 Beizhan Road (柳州市北站路112号) near the junction with Bayi and Yuejin Roads. Tel: 0772-2859933 Open from 11:30-22:30

*78 = $12 US, 7 UK, €9 (approx)

. This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 2:07 pm and is filed under Chinese Holidays, Food and Drink, My Dinners, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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