Opposite the bamboo covered bar is a full wall mural of pandas. Pandas just hanging out, having fun and watching you eat. I could have sworn that their eyes followed me around the room. The place is big, with only half of it being used for diners. Behind a partition is another large dining space with what appears to be a stage and karaoke setup just begging to be used. I wonder if this part of the space will ever be used to serve diners, or perhaps it's just for private parties.
To start we had small BBQ pork dumplings. They took a while to arrive at our table (an appetizer that arrived with the main dishes) but they were solid dumplings. The dough was thick and substantial without being so fluffy that it overpowered the fillings.
The special of the day was Szechuan pigs feet. Luckily for me I went with a group of friends that are adventurous eaters like myself and it was a no-brainer to order this. The pigs feet were cooked slow and low and then stir fried with the hottest of peppers, peanuts and celery. Pigs feet, if you've never had it, have a very odd texture- a mixture of skin, fat and cartilage. I loved them especially because they soaked up all the flavor and were super tender. This dish was HOT. If you accidentally ate one of the red peppers your mouth was ON FIRE.
|Empty hot pot|
The main course was the Ying Yang hot pot (this was half of the mild house soup and half of the scorching hot Szechuan soup). Hot pot, if you're not familiar with it, is similar to fondue or shabu-shabu. You're served a boiling hot pot of broth that is kept at temperature with a portable burner, and you select various vegetables, meats, and noodles which you boil in the broth. This is a fabulous meal for a cold night and an even better meal when you go with a group of friends. Hot pot is communal and it's best when you get to order a lot of things and share!
The basics for the hot pot are cabbage, spinach, corn, tomatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms and some crab sticks. In addition to this you're given a menu for what you can put in your hot pot and you pay by the ingredient. We ordered so many things that they didn't fit on the table- but here's a list of all the goodies that went into our hot pot:
- jumbo prawn
- fried tofu
- bok choi
- enoki mushroom
- bamboo shoot
- woodear mushroom
- udon noodles
|Hot pot with tons of stuff|
We tended to put the stuff that takes longer to cook into the pot first, like the pumpkin and taro. The meat cooked in under a minute and the cabbage seemed to soak up all of the spice. When things are done you just kind of dig in with a ladle or your chopsticks and pull out what you want. I had fun fishing for things and yelling out "I found a taro, who wants taro?" I honestly loved the hot soup better, mostly because I like the punishment of the hot peppers.
Overall I really enjoyed the hot pot and I would go back for it any time. Even with ordering all of that food our checks were still fairly cheap (split between 5 about $15 per person). Jennifer, our waitress was helpful, polite, and happy to explain everything to us hot pot novices. When next winter rolls around I'm sure I'll want a hot pot just as frequently as pho. Now, I have to go back to Lucky Bamboo for their dim sum and see how that compares to New York.