Boston’s Best Asian Lunch Spots

I wish I would have taken more pictures of all the restaurants and cafes I had visited.  I guess I was caught up taking pictures of my four year old nephew that I don’t get to see much.  Surprisingly, he loves to cook and recently he has attended cooking classes.  I will remember next time for sure to take snap shots of all the food.

Shabu-zen

About seven years ago I was introduced to a restaurant in Chinatown called Shabu-zen. Ever since that first visit, I have become a fan of this busy Japanese style “hot pot” restaurant.  The concept offers fun for everyone. Similar in design to Korean BBQ restaurants, each table is built with an induction burner in which customers cook their own food.  Customers choose among a variety of fresh seafood, meat and vegetables that is then dunked and swooshed back and forth in Shau-zen’s secret homemade broth.  The food itself is simple yet satisfying and provides a sense of comfort at the end of the meal.

Food: Choose items listed under the a la carte to guarantee the freshest items. The price is slightly higher but the cuts are definitely better.  Favorite items include the thinly sliced USDA Prime Rib-Eye $14.95, Angus Boneless Short Rib $10.95, Fish Paste $9.00.  The menu also offers a small selection of high grade sashimi.  The white tuna is among the best although it can occasionally be too cold $6.00.

Service: Friendly service but lacks attentiveness to the customer needs.  At times, the service can be slow causing backups in the kitchen and bar.  Refills on tea and water are slow.  There are clear signs of trouble in the Allston location.  Attitude was cold upon entering the restaurant and our server had great difficulty in understanding English.  Employees are standing idle while others sit along the bar and stare at the Plasma.

Atmosphere: A huge stepping stone from your typical “mom and pop” operation in Chinatown.  For a more vibrant and modern design visit Shabuzen’s newest location in Allston, a 12,000 square foot space.  The crowd is a mix of college students and office workers.

Price: The concept and menu offers affordable food for everyone.  Average check price is $25 or less depending on how much you can eat.  If you are like me, I easily cleared $40 worth of food.

Shabu-zen, 16 Tyler Street, Boston, MA 02111, 617-292-8828 (Chinatown)

Wagamama

For the last five years I have read and followed the news on the growth of the highly successful chain Wagamama.  Over the years, I could only read, imagine and to almost taste the mouthwatering food.  Finally, I can cross out Wagamama on my list of restaurants indicating I have gone there.  This trip, I made sure we made time to visit the restaurant.

In 1992 Wagamama was born in the UK.  Today the company has over 90 units around the world and has become an award-winning Asian-inspired noodle chain.  Built on the basis of the Japanese ramen bar concepts, Wagamama offers a variety of noodle soups as well as stir-fried noodles, Asian-inspired appetizers and main courses.

Food: To ensure ultimate freshness, food is made-to-order.  Warnings on the menu inform customers that food may be delivered at different times. Because the restaurant was modeled after the Japanese ramen noodle bars, the decision was simple.  I had to try one.  I ordered the Chili Beef Ramen $13.95.  The perfectly cooked noodles were of high authenticity and quality.  Large portions of sliced grilled steak remained tender and full of flavor.  Slices of red hot chili peppers offer a pleasant touch of spice to the broth.  Gyoza filled with ground chicken and napa cabbage served with a chili garlic dipping soy sauce was only average $6.25.  Better tasting gyozas can be found in traditional Japanese restaurants.

Service: Friendly and highly efficient service.  The professional staff acknowledges you upon arriving with a warm welcome.  Servers are equipped with wireless handheld POS devices to input multiple table orders.  At the same time credit card transactions can be done on the fly without any interruption of sending orders to the kitchen.  Food came out quickly and overall service was quick but not rushed.  Excellent service which deserved a 20% tip

Atmosphere: Attractive, sleek and modern design that stands out.  Communal tables run along the restaurant with a row of tables that face the window looking out towards the busy street of Harvard Square.  Casually dressed customers as well as the business crowd quickly fill the restaurant by noon.

Price: Average check is $20-$25 including tax and tip.  Reasonably priced based on the quality of food and service.  Average check is slightly high for lunch but well worth the experience.

Wagamama, 57 Jfk Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, 617-499-0930

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