I wouldn't call this place shabu-shabu, even if there is a huge sign on the windows claiming it. Nor would I call it Korean BBQ, even if they do have tiny plates of sweet, spicy Kimchi and platters of raw, marinated beef. I would just call it Chinese Hot Pot...with a couple of little grilling planes attached.
A long time ago, when food was "just food" for me, I remember my older sister would bring us here and I would go crazy charring and torching just about everything: tender strips of salty-sweet marinated chicken strips (just "pollo" back then), sweet Taiwanese Sausages (just "meat that tasted like pancakes" back then), deep fried seasoned tofu cutlets( just "cubes that tasted like egg" back then), greasy peppered fish cakes, and especially these brittle-like cashews that would always end up making everything into a burnt, black nasty mess. It was o.k though, since they have a self-serve rice station where they have plain steamed rice or rice porridge, I would just get full of that.
I came here for the first time in a long time yesterday...wow, have I changed. Instead of the plain rice i used to get full on, I reached for some chewy pitch black Forbidden Rice Cakes that looked like little square ink-pads, Instead of the usual chicken, I got a little plate of pygmy-sized, luscious scallops. Instead of the regular Udon noodles that were a mainstay whenever we ate there, I grabbed some dark-green "seasoned seaweed" (Waikame seasoned with sesame and chilli oil) and a handful of some sort of chinese greens. I hardly even used my little side of the grill plane, except for a a couple of scallops that I seared and ate while my brew was cooking up. My sister--used to my food "weirdness"--was not so keen on all of my mild experimenting, slurping her usual Udon Noodles and usual grilled fish cakes with the restaurants own sweet bbq sauce, she knew I was definitely not going to get the usual.
They charge by the plate, and the plate size tells the type of food that is gotten, meat being most expensive (chinese "expensive = $5-6!!! , veggies being least = $2)
Oh, and one more thing, if you don't have a passion for food as staunch as mine, and don't mind smelling like stale grease and burnt fumes for the rest of the day, bring old clothes and hold your shower 'till after you eat here.
Cocary Bar B Q Restaurant
112 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754