New Shabu-shabu Joint Serves Wagyu in Chinatown

Not too shabby-shabby.
Not too shabby-shabby. Photo: Daniel Maurer

Emperor Japanese Tapas Shabu Restaurant (now there’s a mouthful!) has been open for a few weeks now in the old Almond Flower space (the owner, Robbin Mui, was a partner), and yet it has somehow completely eluded reviewers and bloggers, despite being one hell of a novelty — a Chinese-owned, Japanese-style shabu-shabu joint where, in addition to the usual soups that you can prepare at your table, you can order a few Almond Flower carryovers such as panfried goose liver in red-wine sauce.

The Chinese influence shows in the mountain of Chinatown vegetables you can dump into your hot pot; and in addition to miso and torikatsu, soup bases include Chinese cilantro with preserved egg and spicy Sichuan. For those bored with udon, there are Thai vermicelli and spinach noodles.

The beef, rest assured, all comes from Japan, including a Wagyu that’ll run you from $38–$68 for use in shabu-shabu (submerging slices in boiling water for about five seconds yields an incredibly tender meat blob) and $88 for a panfried steak. Modest spenders can opt instead for ostrich, lamb, chicken, or pork meat, as well as a surf-and-turf combo, and there are dozens of à la carte ingredients to throw into the pot, from lobster to tong-o to a-choy to, um, live shrimp. Lunch service focuses more on rice dishes, but you’ll find the shabu-shabu a little cheaper and the sake a little more decadent.

Emperor Japanese Tapas Shabu, 96 Bowery, nr. Hester St.; 212-219-1993

New Shabu-shabu Joint Serves Wagyu in Chinatown