Well, it finally happened.
I had that totally embarrassing moment at a restaurant here in Korea.
Think Christmas Story, when they chop the duck’s head off at the dinner table and the mother screams.
That was pretty much me.
So, Anthony and I decided to have a date night and to go try Shabu Shabu for the first time. I’ve been listening to people rave about the dish and had even watched a couple of my favorite YouTubers do vlogs at restaurants or make home made versions. For those that don’t know, Shabu Shabu is a Japanese dish of broth, veggies, meats (primarily beef or pork), noodles, and rice. It’s a family style meal in that everything is brought to the table on platters and everyone shares. The table has a grill or stove in the center and a large pot of broth is set to boil. You then add veggies and meats little bits at a time to cook and eat. Then you add the noodles, followed by the rice. It sounded and looked so good. I had been begging Anthony to take me fore weeks now and I was really excited when he asked me if I wanted to go.
We carefully selected a restaurant with the South of Seoul app and held off on eating for most the day so we’d be ready for a big dinner. When we got to the restaurant and looked at the menu both of us were surprised they had a seafood option (I had only heard of beef or pork being the selected meats).
Now, as I said, this is a huge meal that you are sharing with your dinner party so I was hesitant about ordering seafood at first because I know my husband doesn’t like it. He encouraged me to order what I wanted. It was our date night after all and he wanted me to order what I wanted and not worry about him. So we got the special: Beef and seafood, which included shrimp, clams, octopus, and abalone. As for me, this is nothing out of the ordinary. I love seafood.
Grilled salmon? Yes please.
Sushi? Sign me up.
Oyster on a half shell? I’ll take it.
You get my point. The special sounded perfect.
Well, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
First the waitress brings us the broth in this huge cast iron pot. I had never seen anything like it before. It looked like it was two half pots welded together so part of the broth was on one side and the rest of the both on the other. One broth had onions in it and other other had a couple tiny chilis. Not very spicy but the extra flavor was really nice. Then she brings a cart with platters of food. One dish was the beef, raw slices rolled and arranged in a neat pile. Another dish was a selection of different mushrooms followed by a plate of heaping lettuce leaves and bean sprouts. There was a bowl of rice mixed with dried seaweed, rice balls rolled in lettuce leaves with a dipping sauce, dishes of chopped cabbage with a sweet dressing, udon noodles with mandu, and of course kimchi. There were little kabobs of fish cake, crab meat, and sliced squid followed by whole prawns, little shrimp and fresh clams. We were in such awe of the feast set before us that it took a moment to realize that next to the shrimp was the abalone.
Still in its shell.
I balked at first. I’d had raw abalone before. I liked it. But it was prepared for me. This time…. well, I didn’t expect it to be like this. How was I supposed to do this? Do I dump the whole thing in pot? Do I try to remove it from the shell first? It moved again. I panicked and Anthony had the staff take it from us. We apologized and told the waitress it was our first time having Shabu Shabu. The look on her face along with the head nod was the equivalent of “no shit.” She was nice enough to bring extra shrimp to replace the abalone.
Once that was taken care of we went on with the meal. I put the shrimp and clams into the broth to cook and we started dipping pieces of beef into the broth and trying it. That’s when Anthony notices a large cylinder bowl they had placed on the table next to a matching one holding the utensils. He tilts the bowl slightly and quickly gets my attention. I can’t remember what words were said at this point but I do remember seeing him startle and then I reach for the bowl myself to take a look.
It was a small octopus.
I promptly started to cry.
So, here I am in the middle of the restaurant, crying that I’ve ruined dinner because I wanted seafood and I should have just ordered the regular beef. I didn’t know it was going to be served this way and I felt horrible because this was supposed to be a nice romantic date and I ruined it. Anthony took the octopus back to the waitress and came back to console me and calm me down.
In the end we finished the majority of the meal, there was so much food I don’t think anyone could have finished it, and left the restaurant agreeing to return one day and order just the beef (and a glass of wine).