Mitsu & Tsaocaa is a new restaurant on 6th Street. It’s a combination boba and shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot) place. It's split into two levels: Downstairs, there are tables equipped with electric stoves for shabu shabu and upstairs, there are lots of tables and chairs as more of a lounge area. The first time I went there, I went with a friend to get boba and do some work. Once we got our drinks, we headed upstairs to the lounge. It’s a really nice area that’s really open and has lots of windows. There are some couches as well, so it’s pretty comfortable.

The boba menu here definitely feels a little fancier. There are some drinks that I haven’t seen at other places. However, those specialty drinks are a little more on the pricier side. I ordered the rose oolong tea with pear ($5.50). This was a light tea, and the pear added a nice sweetness. It was pretty refreshing and nice to drink in the summer.

My friend ordered the sakura oolong tea with matcha milk foam ($4.50). This has a really strong floral flavor, but if you mix in the matcha foam on top, that balances it out. The matcha also adds some nice sweetness to the tea.

The next time, I went with a different friend for dinner. We ended up ordering more boba to drink while we waited for our shabu shabu. This time I got the ruby milk tea with brown sugar jelly ($4.70) and my friend got the jasmine green milk tea ($3.95). I personally prefer having something else other than the normal boba, so I liked the brown sugar jelly. Both of the teas had a nice flavor, but were on the thinner side.

Then our shabu shabu arrived. Shabu shabu is essentially a hotpot dish. There is a pot filled with broth that is served with different meats and vegetables that you yourself cook. It’s $12.99 for one pot and then extra for any add-ons. The two of us decided to split one pot and order a bunch of different things to cook. They give you a sheet to fill out with all your choices.

There are six different soup bases to choose from and we went for tonkatsu, which is a mild, meat-based broth. I really liked this because it paired well with all the different items we cooked and was really flavorful. We also paired it with white rice as our side.

We went with the seafood platter as our main meat, which was $3 extra. It came with shrimp, mussels, crab, and fish fillets. I’m a big seafood fan so I liked all of these. My favorite out of the three was probably the fish fillets. The crab was also incredibly tender.

From the add-ons, we ordered frozen rofu ($1), fish balls ($2), kurobuta pork ($3), and the beef and lamb platter ($4). Everything tasted really good. The tofu was light and soft, and went well with this broth. The fish balls weren’t my favorite because they were a little harder to eat but still had a good flavor. These were both served in a bowl of raw vegetables that comes with the shabu shabu. You can put these into the broth early on to further flavor it. The bowl includes some greens, corn, and enokitake mushrooms.

With the pork, beef, and lamb, the trick is the timing. It’s important to make sure you’re cooking everything long enough. I don’t really like chewy meat, so I wasn’t sure about these but everything cooked really well and is sliced thinly enough that nothing is very chewy.

Overall, this was a really fun experience. It was cool to cook the food on our own and eat at our own pace. This is definitely a meal you want to have when you have a while to eat. My favorite part is getting to eat a little bit of everything. I would come back here again, and I’d be interested in trying their other shabu shabu items.

Mitsu & Tsaocaa
608 S Sixth St
Champaign
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

Photos by Anusha Bansal