A life consumed by food. A lifetime consuming food.
To celebrate my birthday, my aunt and uncle took me out for dinner a few weeks ago. I was really craving shabu shabu, so I decided to give Gokudo Shabu Shabu a try. Based on the Urbanspoon reviews, it seemed like hit or miss, and it certainly didn’t seem like traditional Japanese style shabu shabu. But, it was the only place in Richmond that fit the bill. My experience at Gokudo was memorable, but I don’t know if it was for the right reasons.
It’s strange that Gokudo calls it shabu shabu, when their restaurant concept originated from Taiwan. If you ask me, I would call it hot pot because the broth choices are completely different from shabu shabu broth, which is prepared with dashi and kombu. For some people, I can see hot pot at places like Gokudo would be preferable to the traditional style where there is a communal soup pot in the middle of the table. At Gokudo, everyone sits at the bar with their own individual pot. That way they can double dip, back wash, and add spice up the soup anyway they like without anyone complaining.
That night, we each ordered one of the set meals, which is a choice of meat or seafood served with a plate of mixed vegetables, a drink, rice or noodles, and dessert. I decided to make my meal as authentically Japanese as possible, and had the miso soup base to my lamb in. There were also plenty of options for side orders, and I added a pork blood cake as my selection.
My cousin, who had a different soup base, shared his pork cheek with me. My miso soup base was instant tasting, and I preferred my cousin’s. But, as I cooked my food, my soup was flavoured by the ingredients and gained more depth. The broth at the end of the meal is something I always look forward to because I pour the hot flavourful broth over a bed of cooked noodles.
I know the staff don’t actually do much cooking, but one thing we really enjoyed was the dipping sauce they prepared. My aunt was trying to figure out what was used to make the sauce. As far as we could tell, it was a combination of hoisin, chili bean paste, and a bit of satay sauce. My aunt is very tempted to do a bit of detective work and get the actual recipe.
Service at Gokudo was perhaps the most memorable thing about that evening. Our drinks came half way through the meal, and we had to remind our waitress several times. It may have been a language barrier, but when we asked questions and reminded them about our orders, blank stares were a common response. Our situation was like when the television remote control begins to run out of batteries. You think mashing the buttons harder or smacking it will work, but no matter how hard or how many times you press you’re still stuck on the same channel. Instead of changing the batteries, you walk up to the TV and press the buttons there instead. One of us actually had to walk up to the refrigerator and get our own drink at one point.
One of the waitresses who had a very nonchalant attitute looked like she was more concerned about being fashionable than practical. I can understand sacrificing practicality in the name of style, but I don’t think I could wear six inch platform heels and skin tight pleather jeggings to waitress in. She had skills, but they were more suited for a runway than a restaurant.
Even though the service was more of a Top Model episode than quality waitressing, my cousins really enjoyed the dining concept. Service aside, the experience still could have been better, if not for the bar seating which made it difficult to hold a conversation with everyone. Although, I noticed that they did have tables for groups up to four. In the end, it was still a good choice for the cold weather, and the 10% off coupon from Klip Magazine made it an appealing option. We had good food, and a good laugh, and I guess that’s all I need for a great birthday celebration.