Asian Hot Pot
Address: 740 Corydon Ave
Hot pot is a traditional dish believed to have originated Mongolia, and popularized in China, Thailand, and Japan. The basic premise is simple: a boiling pot of stock to which a variety of ingredients can be added, crafting and instant and every changing soup. Like fondue or Korean barbeque, this cook at the table treat brings the action out of the kitchen and allows diners to customize their own dinners.
This Corydon Avenue spot is the city’s only hot pot restaurant, with a mind-boggling array of options to craft your own DIY deliciousness.
Meals are served for a flat fee plus a couple dollars for broth: $11.95 for a lunch special with five items, or $25.95 for the all you can eat option, which sets no limits on the number of add ins. A checklist of 20 broths and more than 70 different ingredients to add in makes for plenty of options to mix and match. These include a range of skinny to wide noodles, thinly shaved beef, pork, and lamb, seafood, fish balls and cakes, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and even fresh eggs that can be cracked and poached at the table. Thin slices of kabocha squash melt into tender sweetness after a few minutes in the bubbling broth.
The soup is served in metal tureens, one per diner, which are placed over burners at the table and soon reach a roiling simmer.
Flavourful broths range from basic, like ginger and green onion or curry, to exotic—adventurous diners may opt for soup simmered from sheep’s foot or silkie bird (a breed of chicken). As for “deer pizzles”—not for the faint of heart. Richly flavoured beer and duck broth is an excellent choice, releasing a malty aroma and swimming with dark shreds of duck. Spicy crab broth, delivered to the table with the whole shell inside, is packed with umami flavour, though not for the spice-averse, slicked with a rich red pool of Szechuan chile oil.
The experience is an ever evolving meal, as flavours transform with the addition of new items. Ingredients vary in optimal cooking times, however trial and error is a quick teacher for the uninitiated, and servers are happy to offer explanations and tips. To add extra punch, a condiment bar along one wall allows for the introduction of even more sauces and flavours. Play mad scientist with minced garlic, herbs, peanuts, soy sauce, bean paste, hoisin, and countless other sauces and oils, or follow one of the suggested combinations listed on the wall above.
Service is friendly and prompt, and someone is always nearby to top off the hot pot with a splash from a steaming kettle. When you’ve scraped the bottom of the pot, sitting back happy and full, a pot of floral jasmine tea and a complimentary scoop of ice cream is a perfect way to end the meal.