Koreatown has become a bit of an all-you-can-eat destination for shabu-shabu, with the enduring popularity of Shabuya, Seoul Garden, Aki Shabu, and now the return of fan-favorite Bon Shabu. The sleek, minimalist restaurant sits on the ground floor of a high-rise building in Koreatown and feels like it might have been plucked right out of Seoul’s Gangnam District.
Owner Seunghoon Danny Lee opened the original Bon Shabu in a standalone building in 2017 at the corner of Ardmore and Sixth Street, before closing it during the pandemic. Lee says that Bon Shabu closed due to a full redevelopment and demolition of the original property, allowing him to turn his attention to Oyabun, a raw seafood restaurant that he has operated on Olympic Boulevard since 2019. Now he’s brought Bon Shabu back to life.
This recent crop of Koreatown shabu-shabu restaurants could be categorized as Korean-style hot pot, which draws inspiration from traditional Japanese and Chinese hot pot (and often puts the hits from those two places on one melded menu). At places like Bon Shabu and Shabuya oil-slicked huo guo broth comes with nearly a dozen types of fish meatballs, while standard broth options include konbu-dashi or sukiyaki flavors that are typical of Japanese shabu-shabu restaurants. And since Koreans like to do all-you-can-eat (as evidenced by numerous AYCE barbecue spots in K-Town), many of these Korean-style hot pot restaurants offer unlimited food.
Here on Wilshire, Bon Shabu’s prices have increased, which Lee says is due to overall costs that have risen over the past few years. But those who are willing to shell out a bit more will be well rewarded with some of the highest-quality hot pot meat in Los Angeles. The dinner menu, which runs $58, comes with a choice of four wagyu beef options, including chuck tender, brisket, chuck roll, and short plate, which work marvelously with the array of broths by staying tender while still retaining a beefy essence. Five different prime cuts include chuck roll, top plate, New York steak, beef belly, and brisket, while the non-beef choices entail pork collar and belly, chicken breast, lamb, and basa fish.
Like other hot pot restaurants, there are individual bowls (or half-bowls, in this case) that allow patrons to swish around their meat right in front of them. Bon Shabu offers eight different broths; from a basic konbu-dashi , an organic beef bone (similar to seolleongtang); a chile-oil huo guo; a sweeter sukiyaki with ginger and onion; a tomato base, and a vegetable broth. Two more spicy options of the konbu-dashi and beef bone round out the broth options.
For lunch, the meat choices are reduced to just one wagyu cut, though all of the prime-grade beef and almost all the other meats (except for the dinner-only lamb) are available. As a result, lunch is a more approachable $34 for adults. Every meal also comes with access to the buffet, stuffed with numerous popular hot pot vegetables from napa cabbage and baby bok choy to some shellfish. There’s even a small selection of prepared items from dumplings to fried chicken, in case one gets tired of all that rich meat. (Note: there is a fee for any leftovers, so don’t order or pick up more than is needed.)
The sauce selection at Bon Shabu could arguably be best-in-class with everything from ponzu and peanut sauce to a house special with chopped vegetables and chiles. Build a custom sauce with flavorings like minced garlic or daikon radish, and various types of chiles. Finally, there’s a small set of miniature desserts like chocolate mousse or tiramisu to finish with a sweet bite.
Bon Shabu opened at the height of hot pot season, with cold, rainy weather seemingly on the forecast every week. This impressive space, with minimalist appointments and sky-high ceilings, feels very much like a modern Seoul dining room. One little tidbit to know: Bon Shabu offers a free meal for those celebrating their birthday. Just make the note when booking a table with a group, and the birthday person gets a freebie.