Bob's 88 - pitch in the pot

Feb. 17, 2008, midnight | By David Zheng | 13 years, 8 months ago

Asian cuisine served with an unexpected twist

While Bob's 88 Shabu Shabu lacks the glamor of other restaurants and eateries that dot the aisles of the new Rockville town center, it more than makes up for its deficiencies with its unique do-it-yourself meals. Deviating from conventionally bland Asian cuisine, Bob's 88, not to be confused with Bob's Noodle 66 right across the street, mixes excellent cuisine with an experience to remember.

Right away, diners will notice that there are built-in user-operated stoves on each table. Shabu shabu is Japanese hot pot in which diners cook their own raw food and dip it into various sauces. There are 15 hot pot options including beef, lamb, tripe, pork, seafood and vegetarian. A massive plate with foods such as cabbage, spinach, enoki mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, an egg, shrimp and fish balls, corn and rice noodles comes with every order. Hot-pot orders range from $9 to $15 with appetizers available for between $3 and $5, making the unique dining experience affordable.

A waitress delivers a stainless steel pot filled with chicken stock within minutes and explains shabu shabu. Diners can mix their own dressing from a large variety of sauces and condiments including sweet chili, spicy hot oil, sesame oil, leek sauce, garlic sauce, cilantro, green onion and sa cha sauce. Lots of experimentation may be needed to find a combination that fits; a sign with suggestions from Bob would improve the process.

Bland alone, the vegetables are delectable in the leek and garlic sauce with spicy oil. The raw egg can be used to make a savory egg drop soup. The thinly sliced beef is juicy and succulent, scrumptious shrimp balls explode with flavor and the tripe adds crunchy texture and provides subtle taste in sa cha and leek sauce. The waitresses are more than happy to help struggling diners concoct a delicious meal from all of the choices.

For the less adventurous, Bob's 88 offers a wide selection of chef-prepared dishes as well, including teriyaki entrees, sushi plates, seafood and staple Chinese dishes such as curry chicken, stir fry and noodles.

The fried calamari, lightly coated with salt and pepper, is adorned with spices and aromatic herbs. Crispy on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside, this French-fry shaped appetizer pops with flavor and is simply addictive. The sushi platter is equally scrumptious, with various assortments of arranged crab stick, smooth avocado, tangy pickled diakon, soft tofu, raw salmon and roe that blend together into a flood of flavor.

The meal is topped off with a generous serving of shaved ice garnished with condensed milk, red beans, peanuts and tapioca pearls. A very refreshing way to end a night, the shaved ice satisfies a sweet tooth and introduces the diner to a mix of various textures ranging from soft to chewy to crunchy.

Unfortunately, the restaurant does not provide an atmosphere worthy of the food. Bob's 88 was converted from Paisano's pizza parlor, a spectacular mess, two years ago. Despite evident efforts to renovate the run-down building, insulation foam is still visible around every window. Beer plaques hang on the walls, pipes dangle precariously, vents are clearly visible and many chairs have patches, some of which are not-so-discreetly repaired with duct tape.

Despite the obvious structural blemishes, Bob's 88 offers an exciting and friendly environment. Attentive waitresses greet diners with smiles and frequent refills of tea. Tables can easily accommodate up to eight people and shabu shabu naturally creates a rowdy environment perfect for laughter and conversation. Since spills and accidents are common, there is no pressure on newcomers. Although Bob's 88 is best experienced with a good crowd, flat screen televisions are spread across the room for the less conversationally inclined.

With its excellent service, cheerful and casual atmosphere and Metro accessibility through the Rockville station, Bob's 88 provides an ideal location for family and friends to take a night out and have fun trying something new.

Bob's 88 is located at 316 N. Washington St. in Rockville. It is open from 11 - 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 - 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

David Zheng. David Zheng used to live in California but now he is trapped in Maryland. In his spare time, David likes to play sports in general, doze off in front of the computer, watch random movies, and eat ice cream. Although some may disagree, David is … More »

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