Doubtful at first that he needed someone to cook his Japanese hot pot for him, Times critic Pete Wells is now a believer in a shabu shabu chef after eating at Shabushabu Macoron. He awarded two stars today to the Lower East Side tasting menu restaurant at 61 Delancey St. at Allen Street.
A meal at Shabushabu Macoron, from chef Mako Okano, includes four appetizers, five courses of shabu shabu, cold soba noodles, and dessert for $128. Wells waxed poetic about the wagyu portion of the shabu shabu portion in particular:
Before I knew it she had cooked the first piece of beef — was it the A5 from Miyazaki or the A4 from Kagoshima? The flesh had twisted itself around, and now dusk-gray outer curls hid inner curves of faded pink. The flavors moved in rapid waves: first a few clinging, savory drops of dashi, then some already-melted beef fat, followed by the flavor of the lean meat itself, sweet and refined. Finally came a second helping of fat, freshly melted now.
When Ms. Okano fished out a piece of beef, she would suggest seasoning it with one or more of an almost comically large assortment of condiments and purées that she makes herself. She seemed to favor her ponzu, and so do I; it’s more radiant with yuzu than any I’ve had before. I also liked the sweet soy once I learned to doctor it with a few drops of what Ms. Okano calls “gravy sauce,” a dark liquid that makes meat taste meatier. Many dismal meals would be saved if I carried an eyedropper of gravy sauce around with me.
Other dishes include the “spotless and fresh” vegetables, unforgettable chicken meatballs, and excellent soba. Wells predicts the challenge for the restaurant moving forward will be if it is able to change with the seasons to surprise and satiate regulars, as his three meals were identical. Two stars.