sometime after 4:35pm i walked down to the cafe, arriving at exactly 5pm. there was still a slight drizzle so i had an umbrella, but closed it eventually when i noticed it was just intermittent drops. passing by the cambridge branch library, i thought i saw LSH through the window studying at one of the reading tables. later when i inspected the photo i took i think i might've been wrong.
i went to the cafe because my 2nd aunt was treating everyone to dinner. originally she wanted to go to the flaming grill buffet, but it's difficult to get to during evening rush hour, the one in revere as well as the new one that just opened in malden. plus my mother told my aunt that i didn't want to go, which was true, but i told her privately, not for her to out me. then i noticed a new hot pot buffet place in the former maki maki buffet building in brighton (new is relative, maki maki closed in 2016, shabu shabu has been opened since summer 2017). spring shabu-shabu was the perfect venue - close, and priced right at $16.95/person - but i discovered that the meat and seafood are actually extra (written in small disclaimer print on their website). so you're essentially pay $17 for a vegetarian hot pot. that didn't seem to be a good bargain, but my aunt wanted to try it, even if we had to pay extra for meats. and by coincidence, my other aunt stopped by the cafe this morning and when my mother told her we were going to spring shabu shabu, my aunt said she was just there recently.
my parents closed the cafe a bit early and we left at 5:15pm, taking my sister's car. my sister is totally crazy and hates people giving her driving directions even if she's wrong, so we ended up going the more circuitous route which took twice as long. when we arrived at 5:30pm (when the place opens for dinner), the parking lot was nearly packed and people were already seated. they kept the same interior layout. we were seated as far away from the buffet counter as possible; i asked if we could change to a closer table, the server said there'd be a 10 minute wait, so we decided to take the table they gave us, even if it was a bit farther.
our actual server (a filipina) took our broth order from a choice of 5 flavors: dashi, spicy dashi, pork bone, spicy pork bone, and vegetarian. my parents and i got the spicy pork bone, which was the closest approximation to sichuan hot pot minus the peppercorns. my 2nd aunt had the spicy dashi which wasn't spicy at all. my sister got the regular pork bone (a white broth that looked like milk). we also ordered 4 meats: lamb ($4), tripe ($4), prime beef ($6), and seafood combo dinner ($7). the meats were well portioned, and must be subsidized by the cost of the buffet as they're cheaper than elsewhere when you order by the plate.
the buffet counters were a dazzling sight; i wanted to take photos but got all self-conscious as the feeding frenzy of customers began (fortunately there's a gallery on the website). there was a counter of vegetables, a counter of different noodles next to a section of different mushrooms (shitake, wood ear, oyster), a counter of different fishballs and tofu, and two twin counters of sauces. when i returned to my table with my plate of food, they'd already delivered the broth which was boiling at the table. i went back to the buffet counter to mix my sauce: scallions, cilantro, minced garlic, shacha sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, and soy sauce. the only thing that was missing to make it even more delicious was a square of fermented tofu.
the hot pot was very delicious. i didn't take any fish balls (they're mostly flour anyway, just a bit of fish), but they had tiny chicken and cilantro dumpling/wontons, which did have a bit of meat. you could probably forgo the meats as they were plenty of protein in the different varieties of tofu, and you could also really fill up on all the noodle carbs. the last time i had hot pot was last february for chinese new year (i hope we do the same this chinese new year as well).
as we ate, the restaurant began to get more and more crowded, until not a single table was empty, and a line of people were waiting outside to be seated. hot pot smoke was everywhere, and i wondered how much my clothes would stink afterwards. the clientele was predominantly asian, with a few mixed groups of adventurous young adults. i ended up going 2 plates of food before i was to capacity. the only thing they had for dessert was soft serve ice cream in either green tea or vanilla flavor. the ice cream was cold, didn't give me an ice cream headache, but i could feel it interacting in my stomach (gut headache).
we finished in just under 2 hours. my sister drove me home first, after we had to plea with her to cut across harvard square (the obvious direct and closer route), which is much closer than the circuitous route she wanted to take around the charles river towards watertown. even then she seemed to have a problem taking directions, staying in the wrong lane as i tried to get out of the car. i got dropped off on mass ave and ended up walking a few blocks home. i didn't mind, i needed the exercise to work off all the food i ate.
as expected, solar production was a mere pittance at 1.17kW. at least it wasn't the worst day of production this month, that honor goes to the 21st, when we didn't even break the 1kW mark and only made 0.96kW. i've done more calculating and we are in an excellent position this month to surpass october's production numbers.