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Dining Review: It's warm, satisfying and very trendy food

Simple, delicious food set in Glendale's up-and-coming loft district.

October 14, 2013|By Lisa Dupuy
  • Angus beef, of freshly sliced Angus rib-eye, with a fresh assortment of vegetables, black rice, udon noodles and tofu at Joon Shabu Shabu in Glendale on Thursday, October 10, 2013.
Angus beef, of freshly sliced Angus rib-eye, with a fresh… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Not everyone loves shabu shabu, but I do. You have to enjoy the simplicity of water-simmered food, to like cooking it yourself, and to not mind making a bit of a mess.

There's a sleek, new shabu shabu joint in what I'm boldly labeling the loft district of Glendale. The area surrounding the Americana at Brand is gradually becoming a walkable neighborhood of modern urban dwellings and the shops, restaurants and services that cater to them.

Joon Shabu Shabu is one of those restaurants. Housed at the street level of a newly renovated apartment complex, Joon is the perfect place to pop in, alone or with friends, for a hotpot of healthy veggies and meat.

With a style that would fit right in in Tokyo or San Francisco, Joon proudly specializes in one thing only, shabu shabu. The Korean owners spent time in Tokyo and brought that Japanese sensibility here.

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Korean shabu shabu uses flavored broth. Japanese uses plain water flavored with a small piece of konbu (seaweed), as they do at Joon.

There are two long U-shaped bars, one with high stools, one with low ones. In the middle, highly trained servers move about, delivering platters of thinly sliced meats and vibrant vegetables, assisting diners with their individual hot plates bearing simmering liquids, and offering refills on drinks (beer, wine, sake) and dipping sauces. The waitresses — I only saw females — are not only efficient but gregarious, creating a relaxing and fun atmosphere.

They recommend dropping a few vegetables into your hotpot first, allowing the items like sliced lotus root and yam to cook for a minute or two. With your chopsticks, grab your protein of choice (chicken, rib-eye, tofu or seafood) and swish-swish it around in the water until it's cooked.

Shabu shabu is the onomatopoeic derivation of the sound you'll make. Make a pit stop at a bowl of one of the many dipping sauces and pop it in your mouth. Warm, satisfying and yes, messy, but they don't judge. Keep adding and eating more veggies like chrysanthemum leaves, enoki mushrooms, and eggplant at your whim. Delicious black rice and udon comes on the side.

Joon's dipping sauces require a page all their own on the menu. It's hard to decide which two to choose with your order, so ask for the tasting plank. It comes with a sip of ponzu, goma, umami, soyo and ninniku. They're all delectable whether soy-, sesame-, garlic- or fish-sauce-based.

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