There's lots to throw into the soup at Mums.
No one told me not to go on a date to Mums in Japantown, now part of the new Hotel Tomo, for shabu-shabu. So I'm telling you now: Don't go on a date to Mums for shabu-shabu.
But if you do—no matter how much you want them—skip the noodles. Using flimsy wooden chopsticks to lift slippery, mile-long, udon noodles from a pot of scalding water/broth and into a tiny little ponzu-or-peanut-sauce filled bowl, involves superhuman skills. For a nanosecond, you might think you can make the slippery qualities work for you, kind of like Jennifer Beals did with that lobster in Flashdance, but don't get your hopes up. Because unless you're Japanese, by the end of your meal (as you look around at everyone else's remarkably clean tables), you will be convinced that the ability to eat neatly like this has to be genetic. Right?
You might also find yourself removing your increasingly stained sweater, stripping down to a potentially inappropriate tank top that you hadn't planned on revealing, partly because you're not wearing a bra. Of course, undressing during dinner could be a good move depending on the date, but it's not so hot when it's done as a method of preserving the already severely spattered, most-favorite vintage find from a lake of ponzu coming towards you, spilled just as you were about to utter the words: "Look, I'm getting the hang of this!" (At this point, it might be best to channel Susan Somers from her days in Three's Company, and laugh hysterically at yourself, with snort thrown in for good measure.)
You also will do a lot of yelling—not speaking loudly, but yelling—over the noise of increasingly rowdy, drunken tables of twenty or so people who obviously were given the note that shabu-shabu at Mums is best for a group, and even better for a group that wants to order the All-You-Can-Eat-and-Drink ("drink" being the operative word here).
Repeatedly through the meal, your sweet, young waiter will look at you and your date—both acting far too sober and far too subdued in comparison to the rest of the crowd—with a mix of pity and sympathy when you decline more than your one Asahi, and he will ask you again if you're sure you're having a good time. Then he will bring you a complimentary scoop of vanilla ice cream, as if to say, It's going to be ok. Really.
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