Friday, September 17, 2010


It was my Kumpare Stephen Choa's birthday last Saturday and he rounded up the Monday Night/Talk Holes Club for dinner at one of our group's favorite restaurants: LAU CHAN SHABU-SHABU! It started out as a hole-in-the-wall on Mabini St., across the Hyatt Casino. We had been there about two to three times, had a good time each time, which is why we have become repeat customers. I have recommended this restaurant and this has never failed to satisfy everyone. And why not? The service is great, the food is good, the prices are good, but the parking sucks. And they don't charge their sukis corkage so you could actually have good chablis with your Chinese food. However, they allow smoking and this could be a big no-no to those with kids, allergies and issues with the supot national anti-smoking law.

Lau Chan has prospered and has decided to open a new branch: on Mabini Street. Now how odd is that, right? The new digs is fancier, parking is less of a hassle and everything else still satisfies. Best of all: NO SMOKING! And oh, the wait staff now wears fancy red-motifed uniforms. Plus, an ala carte menu is on hand to complement the photocopied (mimeographed?) menu for the shabu-shabu treasures.

The satay broth to me is still the best. But they also have seafood, beef, chicken and vegetarian. Inexpensive to the point of mysterious, the menu is exhaustive: kidney, chicharon, polonchay, mushrooms, beef, pansit, tito, bola-bola: name it, you can shabu-shabu it. (Shabu I was told is an onomotepeic of the sound that one makes when swishing ingredients in and out of the hotpot). From the ala carte menu we ordered spicy ribs, fried dumplings (must-try) and the mundanely named but divine-tasting bacon shrimp, which reminded me of the camaron con jamon of Star Cafe in Baguio.

Part of the shabu-shabu experience is the fun one derives from mixing your dipping sauce out of the toyo, satay, minced garlic and chili that is given to you, plus the custom-made dinner that each one can derive from the ingredients boiling away in the pots. At the end of the meal, when you think you've had your fill, try sampling the broth from each pot and you get a very complex and hearty soup that's been flavored with every vegetable, meat, noodle and intestine that had been cooked in them. Truly a fun and worthy experience. I'm definitely going back!

The new Lau Chan is on the western side of Mabini in Ermita, Manila, between P. Faura and Arquiza streets. Street parking is available.

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