Recently some new Japanese restaurants have opened up. Today we’re going to take a look at Sabaidee Shabu Shabu, conveniently located on Samsenthai road relatively close to where it flows into Luang Prabang road at the Mercure hotel (old Novotel). The Restaurant has big red neon signs and is not easily missed.
This is a buffet restaurant so you can eat as much as you would like. Most of the food comes to the customer through a conveyor belt with small plates carrying vegetables, fish and meat. The food served in this way is raw and you can cook it in a temperature-adjustable cooking pot filled with water or one of the broths available. The quality of the food on the conveyor belt is good and even the generally more expensive fish, seafood and shrimp is widely available.
Apart from the conveyor belt there is a traditional buffet with various kinds of sushi, salads and desserts. The food is all very tasty but if the restaurant is at capacity, the most popular dishes might sometimes run out or take a long time to refill.
The desserts section is a bit small compared to what is on offer for the rest but it has some ice cream, some fruit and some traditional Lao dessert called nam waan or sweet water. This consists of coconut milk with various kinds of jelly and fruit like things inside. The ice cream was eventually finished and not refilled like I mentioned above.
Hygiene is excellent and having the kitchen in view is a great deterrent to unsanitary practices. If the restaurant is very full the walkways can get a bit crowded with staff and customers but this is not a big problem although it requires some careful maneuvering.
A variety of non alcoholic drinks like pepsi, mirinda, soda, green tea, grape juice and lychee juice are included and there is a “beer buffet” option where you can drink as much beer as you would like for only 15000 kip.
The restaurant doesn’t cater specifically to westerners, but there is a lot of staff and enough of them speak basic English. The crowd is made up mainly of middle class Lao people, Asian expats and the occasional western expat.
My biggest gripe with this restaurant is a bit fundamental. While they have a Japanese name and styled the whole building as Japanese the food is actually not Japanese at all, apart from the sushi. This doesn’t mean the food is bad, but it is quite similar to what you would get at a Lao buffet albeit here it is of higher quality. If you prepare for this or mainly go for the sushi it doesn’t matter, but those wanting to eat specific Japanese dishes like sashimi might be better off at another establishment like Fuji. Sabaidee Shabu Shabu also advertises with some specific foods like enokitake mushrooms, but these are not actually served.
Despite the things mentioned in the last paragraph I think the restaurant offers excellent value for money at 71000 kip per person. Especially sushi fans would be hard pressed to get their cravings cheaper.
By Romé van Grinsven