Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki are pretty similar although Shabu Shabu is considered more savoury where as Sukiyaki is sweeter. [#Tip: Shabu Shabu is more similar to the Chinese version of steamboat.]
This place was first recommended to me by my sister-in-law and then by my dear friend. As such, last weekend, my 'eating party' and I decided to have steamboat (a la Japanese style) and so we headed out to Suki-ya @ Paradigm Mall. They have another 2 outlets, one in Pavilion's Tokyo Street and the other in 1 Mont Kiara Mall.
This is an 'All U Can Eat' Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu Buffet @ RM29.80++ (Lunch 11.30am - 5pm) or RM39.80++ (Dinner 5pm - 10pm) and Kids (below 12) eat at 50% while those under 5 eat for free....and you know Malaysians, they love their 'Eat All U Can' buffets! [#Note: You are limited to 2 hours dining time (which is more than sufficient).]
As soon as we were seated, we were served 2 sauces, a soy + rice vinegar sauce (ponzu shoyu) which has a salty taste from the soy and a refreshing tangy taste from the vinegar and a bean paste sauce (misotare) which is slightly spicy/salty.
We were then asked to choose from 4 tasty soup bases - Shabu Shabu, Miso, Sukiyaki and Kimuchi. As we were a 'Party of 9', we were given 2 pots and so were able to choose 4 soup bases.
We chose the Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu for one pot. Hey, our soup pot looks like the Chinese 'yin and yang' symbol, my friend commented, and indeed it does! The Sukiyaki is a sweetened soy-sauce broth (and it's good to cook your meats in) while the Shabu Shabu is a light konbu broth.
For the other pot, we chose Kimuchi and Sukiyaki (again) since none of us like Miso (made from fermented soybeans). The Kimuchi is a mildly spicy soup with a kimchi and spicy miso base. As I am not a kimchi fan, I didn't like this soup as much + our 'tom yam' broth has more kick.
While most blogs sang praises for the Sukiyaki and Kimuchi soup base and termed the Shabu Shabu broth as bland and tasteless, I beg to differ. The Shabu Shabu turned out to be my favourite soup base. In order for it not to be bland and tasteless, you have to put in the right ingredients to bring out the sweetness of the soup. For this, I simmered the broth with a few chunks of sweet corn, some slices of white raddish, carrot and "wong ngah pak" (Chinese cabbage). You can also add onions and leeks.
My suggestion is to not 'violate' the taste of the Shabu Shabu broth by refraining from cooking your meats in the broth. That way, the broth can be kept clear and light and still taste great if you intend to have it with noodles later or just for drinking.
You can dip your meats into the Sukiyaki broth instead as this broth (being more salty) is ideal for cooking. This way, the meats will not cloud your soup of choice and the 'gamey' flavour will also not leach into your Shabu Shabu soup base.
Suki-ya offers 4 types of meat, on request basis, and you can ask for unlimited refills of these meats. They have beef, lamb, chicken and "beef bumbu". While waiting for the meats to arrive, you can 'study' the tips given to you on how best to enjoy your sukiyaki experience!
Finally, our meats arrived. This is the 'paper thin' sliced beef which turned out to be the best and tastiest item. We requested for many refills of this.
As suggested, we should gently swish the meat back and forth and, once it changes colour (it just takes mere seconds for beef), it's ready to eat. So, we swished and we swooshed....and we swished some more!
Once ready, dip into a beaten raw egg (as suggested) and then into the ponzu shoyu (that's how I like it)....and it's oh-so-delicious!
It's safe to eat with the raw egg as they use premium pasteurised eggs here, so you can rest assured (maybe not for the kids, just to be on the safe side).
You can also eat it dipped in a sesame seed sauce (gomatare) which turned out to be my favourite sauce of the day. I loved the fragrant smell and taste of the sesame seeds. This sauce is available upon request only.
The 'free flow' of freshly sliced meat continues with the thinly sliced lamb. This, however, is slightly more fatty than the beef. Regrettably, it had an extremely 'gamey' taste (or "chow so" in Chinese). And, if you don't like lamb to begin with (like me), this is a definite no-no! It was so gamey that I could taste the gaminess in the soup. [#Tip: That's why I recommend that you cook your meats in a separate soup base, the one that you don't intend to drink.] They gave us 3 plates to start with and we had to 'dig deep' to finish it.
Another meat they brought us was the chicken. These were fairly thickly sliced and takes longer to cook. It was rather fatty and plain, nothing great. Luckily, we only asked for one plate and never went for any re-order of this.
Last up, the Beef Bumbu (I swear that's how the wait staff pronounced it), or probably known as Beef Bamboo, which is actually minced beef served in a plastic container that resembled a bamboo (and hence the name). You use the utensil they provide and scoop small chunks of it into your Sukiyaki broth to cook. Taste wise, it was no where near as good as the thinly sliced beef and it tasted more 'beefy'.
These are some of the items ready for our pots. The only fresh seafood item I spotted was the pipi clams. However, these clams were rather small (and tasted fishy) and if you cook these clams in the broth you want to drink, the fishiness from the clams tend to leak into your broth (that's why it's best to cook them in the broth you don't intend to consume).
Apart from the meats (+ 1 seafood) above, you can head to the Healthy Bar and get unlimited supplies of tofu, clams, sausages, beef balls, mushrooms (enoki, shiitake, oyster), all sorts of vegetables and noodles...whatever you fancy!
Finally, add noodles or rice to your remaining broth and enjoy the now intensely flavourful broth.
Other than the meats and the items from the Healthy Bar, there's also sushi on offer in this buffet. I didn't try any as it wasn't what I came for + it didn't look very inviting!
To complete your meal, there's a dessert bar offering a few ice cream flavours (vanilla, chocolate, green tea) with some toppings (chocolate rice, cornflakes, nata de coco, etc.). For drinks, there's a free flow of hot or iced green tea.
This is my vanilla ice cream in a cone....give this a miss...and you won't miss a thing! Coz it's miles away from good (one of my friends commented even McD's ice cream tastes better).
If you are in need of even more variety, they also have some a la carte dishes (like gyoza, tempura, unagi, soft shell crab, etc.) that you could order (at extra costs) to complement your meal. [#Note: I don't quite understand the concept of offering a la carte dishes together with an all you can eat buffet...coz I don't think anyone would order them.]
My Personal Opinion
You always find a queue at Suki-ya but that does not necessarily mean it's good, it could mean it's affordably priced. In this case, the buffet at Suki-ya is indeed just that....value-for-money! You can get your money's worth by just consuming a couple plates of the beef (which is the only good thing here in my opinion). But then again, you can probably get a decent Chinese steamboat at around the same price...and with seafood thrown in!
Taste wise overall, I would say Suki-ya is just fair, palatable fare as some parts were good and some weren't. The parts that were good - the Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki broth, the thinly sliced beef and the sesame sauce. The parts that weren't - the (gamey) lamb, (unimpressive) chicken, (fishy) pipi clams, (flavourless) ice cream.....and the fact that there's almost no seafood at all.
Other than the thinly sliced beef, everything else seemed ordinary. If you don't eat beef (for religious reasons), don't like lamb (because of its gaminess) and the chicken is unimpressive, then you're left with nothing to eat except loads of vegetables. Then, this experience will turn out to be "Sucki-ya" instead of "Suka-ya" for you!!
Would I return? Probably not but, if I do, it'll be for the beef....and nothing else!
Lot UG-13 Paradigm Mall
No 1 Jalan SS7/26A Kelana Jaya
47301 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7887 3042