Happy Hour: Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori & Shabu Shabu in Monterey Park
Place: Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori & Shabu Shabu, 111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 943-7956.
Christine Chiao Trio of skewers (Left to right: Filet mignon; short ribs; pork belly-wrapped shiso leaves) at Shin-Sen-Gumi
Hours: Beer special runs from Mon.-Thurs., 6-7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. For the rest of March, yakitori specials are available Mon.-Thurs., 6-11 p.m. In April, the specials will be offered only on Mondays and Wednesdays, with Angus chuck eye roll sets at $9.88 (reg. $18.95) on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead.
Deals: A pitcher of Sapporo beer for $5; yakitori skewers for $1.50 each (when valid).
Vibe: Monterey Park is known for its dim sum, making it a requisite weekend tour for Westside folk. For locals, it's all about Huge Tree Bakery or Cook's Tortas during the daytime and, as a recent happy hour stop proved, Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori and Shabu Shabu for post-work refreshments.
The service is prompt with an engaging enthusiasm. While you decide on chicken thigh skewers salted or sauced, you'll hear repeated choruses of welcomes and thank-yous in Japanese over a female-dominated playlist of R&B hits popular during Total Request Live's heyday. The suggestive stylings of Tweet, Nelly Furtado and Mya can seem incongruous at a yakitori and shabu shabu restaurant that gets parents with adult children alongside 20-something groups. But then again, Shin-Sen-Gumi hums to its own beat, located on the second floor of a corner shopping center that has seen better days.
The standouts among the list of $1.50 skewer specials include some givens (filet mignon and short ribs) and some less expected (cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon). It can be a bit disconcerting to see the aftermath of skewers piled up, until you notice the wood canister meant to hold them sitting at the table's edge -- and then see the family of three with a collection three or four times your paltry eight. It's smart to save some room, as you may want to round out all that grilled fare with a bowl of tai cyazuke, a soothing tea broth and rice topped with sea bream.
Christine Chiao Chicken meatball skewer at Shin-Sen-Gumi
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