The name is familiar, but up to this point I have yet to visit this well known hot pot chain. Typically when I enjoy hot pot, or when I crave it I am all about that bang for my buck. So I direct my attention to the all you can eat chains, but today I left the newest location of “Boiling Point” feeling just as full.
I was invited to this media event, to celebrate their grand opening on Main Street, their first location in Vancouver. Their other three are in Richmond, Surrey, and Burnaby. They have quickly become a fan favourite thanks to their individual sized pots, kept hot. The heat is thanks to the flame underneath, kept safe within their special platform. It stays lit and the soup stays boiling well into your meal. You can ask for more soup and a new fire, to extend the experience if you choose. And eating off a platform at an elevated height for optimum hand to mouth movement is enjoyable in itself.
When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The restaurant is very modern. Red brick walls, a series of pipes leading to round light bulbs, and wooden tables and booths. It felt like a cafe you would find in Yaletown. But the steamed up and fogged up windows made them distinctly “Boiling Pot”.
The menu is very easy to navigate. A colourful fold-out listing all their flavoured soups and each and every ingredient that goes into it. A great way to be transparent with their customers and for those with allergies or preferences to be well informed.
To start, we tried each of their four available appetizers. They were ingredients you could find within their pots, highlighted on a plate.
“Spicy fermented tofu”. This is a traditional Taiwanese dish, and a must try according to their descriptive menu. They are proud to acknowledge that each triangle is produced from a certified factory in Taiwan. Their tofu is hand brewed from naturally fermented vegetables and contains no preservatives. It is quite a delicacy, if you can get past the smell of bad breath, and if you like spicy food. A firm texture, coupled with a unique taste, that grows on you. I found myself enjoying it more the second time around.
The “spicy cumin lamb” was the same thin slices of lamb in any hot pot, but here flavoured with cumin. But there was hardly enough spice to call it “spicy”. Which would have been nice with the drizzle of creamy white sauce shown in the menu, that was also missing. When I inquired about it, I was told that is not how they prepare it. Instead, it was tasty and tender, but not what was pictured or what I expected.
The “spicy beef” was like the tender and tasty lamb above, but instead seasoned with their signature Mala sauce. Another not spicy, but super tasty and curly ribbon of meat. Flavour-wise, similar to lamb above.
Also similar in texture was their “garlic pork belly”. Freshly sliced pork belly, topped with garlic, chilli, and soy sauce. More salty and sweet then garlicky.
As for their hot pots, they have 10 different soup bases available. You start by selecting your hot soup, next choosing your spice level for it, and then picking a complimentary add on. The latter is basically a bowl of rice or vermicelli to have with your savoury meal and soup. A bowl of carbs to make it extra filling, with a vessel to eat out of. I found eating straight out of a bubbling pot, sweaty work; not to mention the added low visibility if you are wearing glasses.
During lunch you also get a drink included with your meal. Either an iced green tea or an iced black tea. And for lunch your bill is $1 less. Lunch and dinner portions sizes are the same. There is no actual difference between the two, so you are basically paying a premium for when you decide to dine.
All their soups and sauces are made in their “Central kitchen”, located in Richmond. They are delivered to their four restaurants daily. Another fact they pride themselves on. Which is also why they don’t franchise. The brand wishes to continue controlling every aspect of their food, to ensure quality and brand uniformity. And the plan works. I can attest to how great the soup bases are, I never once reached out for any of the four homemade sauces that sat on each table. Clear jars filled with oils, pastes, and liquids available but not necessary. Everything came already well seasoned and flavourful, to the point where any more would be off-putting.
I myself did not order all these different flavours blow, but I was pretty insistent that those sitting with me couldn’t order the same thing, so that I could try them all. It work, they did and I did.
The “House special” was my favourite for its intensity and complexity of flavours. No two mouthfuls tasted the same between the broth with most depth, and all the ingredients bobbing about, within it. Napa cabbage, fermented tofu, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, kamaboko, meat ball in pork, clam, quail egg, pork blood, pork intestine, nira, tomato, preserved vegetables, and cilantro. Naturally the stinky tofu was fairly pronounced, but only in taste and not in smell. It and the quail’s egg really made this something you have never had before.
The “Korean bean paste” hot pot was spicy, my dining mate who ordered it asked for medium in heat, but it came out tasting a lot more like hot. A bright red pool with bean sprouts, nira, pork belly, kimchi, green zucchini, fish tofu, kamaboko, tempura, rice cake, enoki mushroom, fish fillet, wok noodles, lobster fish ball, crown daisy, seaweed, and Korean paste. It tasted like a Korean barbecue sauce but in soup form, with plenty of familiar Korean ingredients and textures.
I had their newest hot pot: the sweet “milk cream curry”. I had it mild so the curry combined with the cream was more sweet than spicy or savoury. The pot is delivered as a pool of yellow with half of it submerged in a thick blob of sea salt cream. The foam slowly melts into the curry broth the more it boils, or you can simply help it along by stirring things up. This pot had the least amount of ingredients, I found myself digging past all the Napa cabbage in search of a protein or a starch. Sliced pork, vermicelli, enoki mushroom, imitation crab stick, fish ball, dried tofu skin, corn, tempura, mountain yam, and Chinese string bean. There was also not enough vermicelli in the mix (my favourite part) thankfully I was smart enough to order more of it as my complimentary side.
The “Taiwanese spicy” delivered. This soup was served in a larger pot, as a larger serving than the others. Here you couldn’t choose your level of spice, it was heavy on the spice and that was it. I tried some and it had me coughing and tearing up after I inhaled it in too quick. Definitely not for those who like their food mild or even medium. Cabbage, instant noodle, tempura, clam, sliced angus beef, enoki mushroom, cuttlefish rings, fish balls, pork intestine, pork blood, maitake mushroom, fried tofu skin, iced tofu, green onion, and cilantro. It was hard to fully appreciate all these wonderful ingredients past the overwhelming amount of spice. But at least you could make them out based on their textures.
The “Japanese miso” was my second favourite pot, especially with the udon and raw egg that crowning the serving. It was a mild miso soup to fully highlight all the other ingredients. Cabbage, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, clam, soft tofu, fish ball, fish fillet, crab, egg, king oyster mushroom, fried tofu skin, and green onion.
They also had a Thai version that I was interested in. I suspect that this would be reminiscent of Tom Yum. And there was also a tomato based broth for the vegetarians. And for those looking for something more simple you can choose your protein in a more traditional soup base. Lamb, beef, or seafood.
To accompany your hot pot they have a hefty list of drinks. Juices, teas, hot drinks, and soda. I went with a milk tea to help refresh my palette and cool my tongue. I found the “Hokkaido milk tea” just amazing. I would could back just go take this to go. Luckily it comes in a to-go cup, in case you can’t finish and find yourself having to.
For the same reason, their new dessert was a popular way to end your time with them. The “milky soft herbal jelly”. Is also made within their central kitchen. It is prepared in the traditional way, using the Mesona Chinese herb. Then packaged to-go in a portable plastic cup and lid, with label; looking like it could be sold commercially in a grocery store. It included a compartment to keep the pods of milk separate, just waiting for you to peal back their cover and pour them out. The dessert as a whole was very refreshing. It was the perfect slurp of neutral to wash away all the potent seasonings and spices used in your entree. A jelly without a taste, that its tastelessness soon defines it.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I really enjoyed my time with them and tasting all the hot pots they offered. One of my biggest complaints against hot pot is that many broths offered are so flat, so you soon find yourself leaning heavily on sauces to flavour your meal. Here I didn’t touch any of it. And even though it’s not all you can eat, $15 gets you plenty. Majority of us couldn’t finish our shares. Don’t deny your cravings.