Continuing this week with non-brunch bottomless restaurants, we have Mums Cafe, home to some of the best shabu shabu in San Francisco. It’s located in the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel (formerly known as Hotel Momo) in Japantown.
In case you’re unfamiliar with shabu shabu, it’s up there with sushi as one of Japan’s great culinary inventions. First you get a large pot of broth (the exact type depends from restaurant to restaurant, but miso broth is pretty common), along with a few things to season it with – at Mums Cafe, these are their homemade spicy sauce, garlic, jalapenos and radish paste.
While you stir the seasonings in and wait for the broth to come to a boil, the staff will bring out raw meat – again, types vary by restaurant, but beef is the staple – along with an assortment of vegetables and noodles. You put these into the broth until they’re cooked, then eat! “Shabu shabu” translates literally to “swish swish,” as that’s the motion you’re supposed to make with the meat when it’s in the broth.
Besides the fact that it’s generally delicious, shabu’s appeal comes from the fact that many places that serve it offer all you can eat and drink menus. Mums Cafe is, naturally, one of those, so you’ll find me there once a month or so.
The all you can eat and drink will run you $42.95 for 90 minutes, which, trust me, is more than enough to get your fill. You’ll get Japanese beer by the large bottle (they usually have Sapporo and Asahi) and house sake, hot or cold. Sake bombs definitely aren’t frowned upon, especially if you come in with a large group.
Delicious, delicious shabu. They’ll default to continually bringing you beef unless you request something else. The other options are pork, chicken and lamb, and of those I would really just recommend the lamb. Pork’s a little too light of a meat for shabu shabu, and I just can’t get behind the idea of cooking raw chicken yourself.
The vegetarian foods include a couple of varieties of mushrooms, cabbage, tofu and spinach, along with udon and glass noodles. If you’re not a fan of all of those things, they’ll bring you individual bowls of whatever you request. You can also get white rice on request, but that just seems like a waste of stomach space that could be otherwise filled with meat.
It’s a small restaurant (so make a reservation if you’re coming in at a popular time or with a big group), and there’s always wait staff buzzing around ready to get you another plate of food or bottle of beer. They’re constantly slicing more meat in the back, so when you ask for it, it’s usually out there in under a minute. Same for beer and sake. Add to that the fact that they won’t judge you at the end when you’ve had an entire night’s worth of booze and a couple days’ worth of food in 90 minutes, and you’ve got yourself some excellent service.
Mums Cafe is one of my favorite places in San Francisco, and I’ve been there for dates, my birthday (and despite about 30 rowdy folks in attendance, they gave us no problem for singing and chanting while we ate) and just about any other opportunity. I’ve got nothing but good things to say – come to Mums Cafe the next time you get the chance!