Hotpot, barbecue, and steamer all in one kitchen gadget!
I like food, I eat when I am happy, I eat when I am sad, I eat when I am bored, and I eat to say I have eaten it. Today I wanted to eat my feelings and my guest suggested hot pot. Hot pot is one of those comforting meals where you cook the food at your table. The process of eating as you cook gives you plenty of time to talk. The goal is to eat all that you can and claim your money’s worth.
This particular hot pot restaurant has long been on my list, so when the stars aligned and we found ourselves here. I opted for an earlier dinner time to allow us the opportunity to digest after such a heavy meal, before bed.
They are known for all you can eat hot pot on one of the most unique contraptions built for dinner theatre. This was a hotpot boiling pot, barbecue grill, and steamer all in one. Three tiers for you to cook your meat and vegetables on. The ability to boil a wonton in soup, grill it like a gyoza, or steam it like a dumpling, right before your very hands. Each method was not only delicious, but it allowed you variety, and offered you a way to rejuvenate a would be one-toned taste.
The room was cold, the kind of cold that had you folding your arms to keep warm. But it would soon quickly warm with the heat of several flames bringing several pots to boil. Each table had a burner built into it, ours was already on and flickered when we sat down. A little dangerous considering that first part of the dinner involves checking off a flammable piece of paper, doing so by passing it back and forth over this flame.
The menu is two pages front and back. One dedicated to the traditional hot pot fare with pre-cooked sides, sauces, and drinks. Another with thicker cuts of meat, ideally for the barbecue platform. However you can put anything anywhere at your discretion. With pencil you go over each option checking off what you wanted and listing how many pieces you believed you could eat.
You begin by choosing your broth. As is often the case, there is a separate cost for the soup. You have to have soup to have hot pot, so it is disappointing to have to pay the separate charge for it. $9 was the standard price, with $18 being on the higher end. “Silky chicken with ginseng”, “winter melon and chicken feet”, “parsley and preserved egg”, and “preserved vegetable and pork belly” were the most adventurous of all 13 options.
We went with the ability to have two $9 soup bases for $13. Our pot would be divided, on top of having the additional layers protruding from its centre. If you didn’t plan to barbecue you could request the regular hot pot vessel, just the cauldron.
The “Thai Tom Yam Kung” soup based was a red-ish Orange brew with a nice warming spice. The “Peppered pork stomach” is one I wouldn’t recommend. The broth was littered with peppercorn pearls and each bite into one unleashed the full force of spicy pepper. And the rubbery stomach meat was no better.
The second tier was for barbecue grilling. It is interesting to note that you lay the raw meat or seafood directly on to the thin piece of white paper, protecting said grill. This layer shields it from the burning of grease, and doesn’t affective the cooking process or the finished product.
The top layer was a steamer basket with lid. As the hot air from the cooking below rises, it steams everything at the top of the tower.
As for ingredients that went into the boiling broth? This was one of the most comprehensive lists I have ever had the pleasure to scan though and choose off of. Everything was available to order piece by piece, in a set of four, or by the bundle or plate. It was hard to decide and commit to six pieces of pork skin or four pieces of black fungus. I preferred the guess work out of my hands, and to be able to order by a set or by the plate. A plate of beansprouts or a medley of mushrooms. Bring me what you think I could finishing. Especially as we weren’t able to eat all that we ordered and we only ordered one round. I think this is one of the only places that actually gives you everything that you check off. They don’t hold you back, or use their best judgment and experience to restrain you from over ordering, and ultimately wasting food. This was the one time I wished we didn’t get what we asked for at a restaurant. More than five plates were left uncooked and much more sat over cooked, hidden at the bottom of the split pot.
Seafood like fish fillet and salmon heads, various squid parts, octopus, and mussels. Oysters were available too, but the menu was specific to say only two each. We were initially upset by the restriction. This was all you can eat but with a limit, it defeats the purpose. Though either of us liked how the cooked oyster came out. We avoided the shrimp in shell because peeling it was tedious. Although it was easier to peel after a quick grill and was delicious because of it.
They had six different dumplings choice available, but the minced fish one were crossed off. You couldn’t really tell the dumplings apart, they were cooked in the same broth and dipped in the same sauce, so they essentially tasted the same. Although their different shapes and various dough wrappings were visual appealing. Pork and chives, pork and fungus, pork and vegetable, fish, and wonton.
The “meat” choices were sheered thin or rolled into curls. Sliced rib eye, short rib, pork belly, regular pork, and lamb shoulder. They also had meat by the bone or in cubes. Chicken wings and luncheon meat. And for the more adventurous they offered beef tripe, stomach, and tendon. They had pork jowl, stomach, liver, bung, and even cooked pork blood cubes. We avoided all of this, as I was not daring enough to try any of it. Such ingredients are so strong that they often change the flavour of the soup and therefore everything cooked in it. My guest was of the same mind set.
The vegetables were more appealing. With six variations of tofu and bean curds. Five different types of leafy greens washed and served on a plate. And taro, lotus root, turnip, and pumpkin, just to name a few.
My hot pot favourite has always been the balls. Minced and mashed meats formed into round balls. They had eleven options including all the basic proteins and more exotic ones like cuttlefish and dace fish. Imitation crab meat fell under this category as well.
They also had a bevy of noodles to boil and eat it all with. Udon, vermicelli, bean thread noodle, glass noodle, instant noodle, and the noodle in wonton soup. I like the chew of such carbs and especially the slices of rice cake and the tubes of gluten. However, I advise not filling up on it, as it is the cheap stuff. And in order to get more bang for your buck, you want to gorge on everything else, specially the proteins.
If you run out of sauce you could always order more. I find the meal is nothing without a strong salty mix to dip meat into and/or to drench noodles with. We started off with soy and satay sauce, and had plenty of it to go finish our meal with. But if we ran out or wanted a different flavour profile, all the varieties were priced at a $1 more. Hot chilli pepper, chopped garlic, shredded ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, or persevered egg.
And if you are too lazy to cook, they actually offered pre-cooked appetizers and entrees. Seaweed and pork ear salads, rice with chicken, and deep fried rice cake.
Each table included a metal rack with three shelves. This was so that there was enough room for everything you ordered, and that you were given enough elbow space in which to eat it all.
Overall, I can’t really comment on the food. We were the ones cooking it. And seeing as we were busy talking instead of concentrating; all the meat came out burnt, the seafood was fished out overcooked, and the dumplings stuck on to the grill in a melted mounds. Although with the use of the soy and satay sauce it all came out tasty. Once again I left another hot pot meal
too full and without tasting the finished broth/end product. The soup ends up tasting like what you put into it throughout the cooking process, which ends up being nothing like its original brew.
The meal was to end up in a bite of tofu for dessert, but we were too past full to indulge.
There were plenty of staff to tend to each table. Almost one person per seating looking out for you. Each raise of your hand or a look in their direction had them approaching you. They weren’t ready on the tea refill, but were quick to jump as soon as I called. Although at the same time I felt judged by some of my requests. There was no communication from them to say they understood, but instead a contorting of the face to question my request. I wanted a plate to store the excess food being over cooked in soup. I got one bowl. I wanted more napkins to clean my hand, I got just a one.
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.
The drive to was a little out there for me, but very much so worth the effort. A unique experience with a large array for food at a good price. All you can eat enoki mushrooms and quail eggs where other places charged an extra dollar or two for either. The point of this visit was to enjoy the special pot, and it delivered, giving us a unique dining experience. Overall for the cost and the value, I have no regrets. Don’t deny your cravings.
105-8291 Alexandra Road, Richmond BC, V6X 1C3