Mokkoji Shabu Shabu Bar is the latest eatery to join the Riverside scene. Shabu shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish in which you get a choice of vegetables and meat that you cook in your choice of broth. According to their website, Mokkoji offers traditional shabu shabu with a twist influenced by Korean, Spanish and California cuisine that is in season. The Riverside location is one of five, all situated in the Southern California region.
I had no idea what to expect coming into the restaurant; my only frame of reference after looking at their website was that this was similar to Korean barbecue. For novice hotpot eaters like me, this is a perfect place. The staff was friendly but not overbearing; they provided instructions for the equipment and recommendations, but would only occasionally check in. Each seat has a spot for the hotpot plate, but the bar definitely is the way to go because there is more room to spread out.
Mokkoji was decorated sparingly; there were beautiful orchids by the door and on the edge of the huge window overlooking the street. Their color scheme of black and white added to the atmosphere so that it felt like we were in a place far fancier than Riverside.
I chose two different dishes in order to try both their mild and spicy options. Although I asked the cheery server about the sizes, I ordered the regular and large in order to make sure I got enough — big mistake! The regular was more than enough to be filling, especially considering that you get a big side of vegetables and a side of rice to complement your meal.
I decided to try the appetizers as well and picked the drunken chicken wings, which the server said were “dank.” He wasn’t wrong — they were crispy, moist and the honey-sweet sauce covering them was so delicious I ended up using it for some of my other proteins. They were pretty fairly priced at only $9 for about eight wings.
On the other hand, the hotpot itself was more expensive than I was expecting. The base had an upcharge for all but one option — the original. This was in addition to the meat, which features premium black Angus beef and wagyu beef; they were also kind of pricey, with the most inexpensive option coming in at $17.98.
The seafood was even more expensive, with the cheapest option ringing in at $22.98. For those eating on a budget, the chicken or the vegetables are your best bet, as they come in at $16.98 and $15.98, respectively.
For the mild choice, I picked a miso broth and jidori chicken for the protein. For the spicy, I decided to try the spicy pork broth with the protein the server recommended, the toro “fatty belly.” Both were delicious: the miso was light and its soft flavor was only exacerbated by the vegetables and the chicken. The house-made sauces were also delectable. One of them especially was mouthwatering. It tasted like a peanut sauce, both creamy and savory. I couldn’t stop dipping my chicken and vegetables into it.
On the other hand, the spicy pork broth was more greasy, but definitely flavorful. And if you feel like you need to heighten the spice level even more, the servers ask if you’d like a drop of ghost pepper extract before your meal starts. The “fatty belly” was anything but; it was thinly sliced and tasted lavish, not like the run-of-the-mill oily beef you might get at a ramen place.
Both meals were appetizing, and it was made all the better by the feeling afterwards. I did not feel bloated or ladden down by the meal, despite the large portion. The notes of each ingredient really came through and united together to make an appetizing meal, all of which were fresh.
The decor and the meal make for a great date spot once UCR opens up. Even if it is a little expensive, it is worth every dollar because of the great service, the lovely location and the scrumptious meal.