1055 Taraval Street SF, CA 94116 | 415.242.9388 | facebook page
After my last post on fondue, it seemed high time that we talked about its Asian counterpart Hot Pot which is especially delicious and warming on a cold winter day. A pot of broth simmers in the center of the dining table, and a variety of ingredients are placed into the pot and cooked. Typical dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, noodles, dumplings, and seafood. The cooked delectables are dipped into a savory sauce before eating, in Japan it is dunked into a bowl of beaten raw egg which coats it with a rich velvety texture. I love the convivial nature of sharing a meal like this because it inspires more interaction with your table mates. Hot Pot Garden opened earlier this year out in the Avenues of SF and is quite popular as evidenced by the line which had formed outside. The main attraction is that they serve an all you can eat menu for $31.95 per person which includes beer, sake, and soda (there is a note that the food must be consumed within 2 hours of first being seated); $24.95 without the booze, kids under 10 years old are $12.95 or free if they are under 3.
The spacious tables are equipped with two induction burners so you can have two hot pots going at once. Each pot is divided in half so that you can try different soup bases. Tonkotsu (Japanese style fatty pork bone broth) and spicy Thai style Tom Yum Broth (with the chili peppers)
We also tried the Vietnamese Pho and Tofu Clear Broth. I must say that we were seated next to this bowl and only one time walked over to try the other broth. Either you need to do musical chairs or musical hot pot if you want to try the other flavors of broth, because it is really impossible to try to cook in the pot on the far end of the table. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying…
Here are the condiments: fresh slices of green onion, cilantro, garlic and spicy chili oil
there were also bottles of ponzu soy sauce, which binds all of the above into an aromatic mixture which adds a burst of flavor when you dip the cooked meats and delicacies into it, although the predominant flavor of soy becomes a bit one dimensional over time.
We had a couple of appetizers that are not part of the all you can eat (AYCE) menu. Jaytee can never resist the Green Onion Pancake ($3.95) when she sees it on the menu
And the Potstickers ($3.95) were light and crispy and full of garlicy meaty filling.
Not only is the format all you can eat, you specify what you want to eat. The cuts of meat are hand sliced to order and they strive to offer the freshest produce and seafood you can see and taste. The Pork Belly looked like curls of bacon, and have the fatty texture of bacon without the smoky salty flavor.
We had many plates of the Beef Rib Eye, which I liked best to swish briefly into the hot broth until it turned pink.
The Basa Fillet is a type of catfish that cooked into meaty flakey pieces, and the dark chicken thigh meat added richness and flavor to the broth.
I loved the Fresh shrimp which came skewered on a stick and there are premium items like live lobster, clams, mussels and oysters that you can order for additional cost.
Over time the broth becomes very flavorful from the juices from the meat and when the overall level in the pot becomes low, attendants come by to augment with clear broth. The fresh ramen noodles are highly recommended.
We stuffed ourselves with wontons and pork and leek dumplings
The Fried Tofu puffs absorb the flavors from both the broth and dip and have a delightfully squishy texture.
We were such a large party that we were seated at two tables and it felt a bit chaotic because everyone was throwing stuff into the pot which made it hard to monitor the cook times, all part of the charm I suppose. It became a very flavorful soup!
The owners are young and seem very responsive to feedback posted on Facebook and Yelp if you have suggestions for new or different ingredients. The interior is sleek and modern and there’s a bar that even has induction cooktops so you can enjoy your hotpot while drinking and watching the TVs lining the walls.
We were so full that I don’t even remember if they had dessert options, but my friend Daisy brought boxes of minicakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes as we were celebrating some birthdays.
We got there early and didn’t have to wait, but there was a line out the door when we left and I read that if you go later to expect to wait, even if you have reservations. There is a reason for the lines (a new and improved concept of all you can eat), so I’d suggest you get there early…