Phantom Gourmet: Japanese Food At Pabu In Downtown Boston

BOSTON – In Japanese, the term Pabu means pub, but in Boston, Pabu means so much more. Hovering over busy Downtown Crossing, Pabu is a sleek and stylish new spot modeled after the many izakayas found in Japan.

“An izakaya is essentially a gastro pub. It’s a place where people can go after work, exchange war stories, have a few beers, have some snacks in both a casual as well as upscale setting,” explained General Manager Linchul Shin.

“Pabu is a little bit of everything. We have this amazing sushi bar. We have a great selection of izakaya-style small plates, and then we also have an incredible steak program as well.”

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Back in the kitchen, Executive Chef Ben Steigers is working on a delicious trip for your taste buds.

“The thing that we go for here is approachability,” Chef Ben expressed. “We’re putting out food that many people have never tried before, but we’re trying to present it in a way that’s fun and easy to eat. A lot of it’s finger food and they’re small bites, so you don’t have to over-commit. It’s a really fun way of eating.”

The small plates are a great way to try a little bit of everything, whether you start with some crispy Tokyo Fried Chicken served with spicy mayo for dipping, or their addictive housemade Pork Gyoza. For the ultimate Japanese sampler, try the Tasting of Robata.

Tasting of Robata at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“Robata is grilled skewers, grilled over a Japanese white coal called binchotan. This binchotan burns at a very high heat and it allows us to char the outside while keeping the inside very moist and juicy.”

While the preparation stays the same, what is served changes depending upon what Chef Ben decides.

“I call it chef’s favorite cuts. We have a lot of off-cuts and things that you normally wouldn’t venture out to try yourself. I like to throw some of those as well as some of the crowd favorites in there as well.”

A sashimi platter at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Since they are sourcing their fish from the world-renowned Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, you can always be sure the sushi is pristine. There are artfully arranged plates of sashimi and creative rolls like a decadent bite featuring fatty tuna topped with briny salmon roe and creamy uni. If your mouth is feeling down, nothing will cheer it up like the Happy Spoon.

“It’s all of the best flavors in the ocean in one spoon,” Ben described. “We start with the Duxbury Cove oyster and we top it with uni, ikura and tobiko. Then we bind it all together with a ponzu crème fraiche. It creates one bite where you’re tasting all of the ocean and it’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s briny, it’s beautiful.”

Happy Spoon at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For some of that same seafood served warm, nothing beats the Pabu hot pot, a dish that changes with the season.

“The stew that we have on right now is our whole Maine lobster, ragoshe nambe, which is a fisherman’s stew. So it’s a thick, rich stew with a whole Maine lobster. There’s some cod belly, clams, there’s different vegetables in there as well as wheat udon noodles,” listed Chef Ben.

“It comes out on its own burner so it keeps it hot at the table. It’s a fun way to eat with friends. Everyone’s digging in. Everyone gets a little piece of something and it’s just a really great way to eat.”

Lobster hot pot at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Since Pabu is also part steakhouse, you can be sure they are offering some of the finest cuts in all of Boston, like a perfectly cooked American Wagyu. For the ultimate indulgence, get yourself the Japanese Miyazaki A5 Strip Loin.

“We use the highest grade Wagyū beef that you can get in the world,” Chef Ben said. “We’re getting it from the Miyazaki Province, which is world renowned for having the highest quality beef, even within Japan.”

This magnificently marbled meat is served in small portions because of its richness.

Miyazaki A5 Strip Loin at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s so rich, so flavorful that we limit it to a small steak. Because it’s so rich, it’s like eating a stick of butter. You wouldn’t want to eat too much.”

“It’s hard to tell people that you’re going to be full after a two-ounce steak,” Linchul said, “but because it’s so rich and you get so much flavor from it, it’s something that you have to try it to believe it.”

Something you will have to taste to believe is the Mochi Sundae. This light and refreshing dessert features mango mochi topped with pomegranate shaved ice, reminiscent of a certain emoji.

“I like to joke around and say that it looks a lot like the red dressed Flamenco dancer Emoji,” Chef Ben joked.

Mochi Sundae at Pabu (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

While the offerings at Pabu may seem ostentatious, the service is definitely down to earth.

“The greatest thing about Pabu is that, again, we’re just all about having fun. We don’t want to be pretentious. We always consider Pabu our home and anyone that comes in are guests in our home,” Linchul said.

You can find Pabu at 3 Franklin Street in downtown Boston, and online at michaelmina.net.

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