Hot Pot and Asian Grill, must-try communal dining
For some, the idea of cooking your own food at a restaurant negates the whole purpose of going out— couldn’t we do this at home? When it comes to dining at Hot Pot and Asian Grill the answer is “not exactly.”
Inspired by the Chinese tradition of communal hot pot meals, tables have induction cooktops to allow each diner to cook their own meals, though there are plenty of ready-to-eat options also available on their menu. My dining companion decided to try his hand at playing hot pot chef for the evening, while I was tempted by the stone bowl meals, selecting the seafood bibimbap.
While we waited for our meals, we snacked on fried tofu dipped in a seafood sauce, a rich, thick, slightly sweet accompaniment for the crisped triangles of soft, creamy tofu.
My seafood bibimbap arrived in a hot stone bowl that continually cooked the rice, creating a crunchy treat at the bottom of the bowl. The squid, crab sticks, shrimp, zucchini, seaweed, shredded carrots, mushrooms and sprouts were topped with a sunny-side-up egg and dusted with sesame seeds. The “hot sauce”, which came on the side, was more of a mild chili sauce. Poured over the stone bowl concoction, the sauce provided a little extra kick and also made a satisfying sizzling sound when it hit the still-oven-hot bowl. This is a meal that will be ordered again. For. Sure.
There are lots of options to choose to create hot pot meals. First, choose your broth flavor from seven options that include pickled cabbage, vegetable, and “rejuvenation”— an invigorating mixture of superfoods swirling around in bone broth. Craving some heat, we tried the Szechuan Spicy Pot with Szechuan peppers, chili and other condiments. The “medium” spice level is not what I would consider a Midwest medium. Get the mild if your spice tolerance is low.
Selecting the items to cook in our hot pot, the Jumbo Combo of two meats, one seafood, and five ingredients classified as “other” seemed appropriate. And here’s the reason you can’t just do this at home— you will never be able to compile the variety of ingredients that are offered on this menu. There are 50 additions to choose from in the “other” category— ramen noodles, tofu, quail eggs, and yam knots, to name a few— and my partner narrowed it down to the ones he most wanted to try: pork dumplings, Asian sausage, fresh Udon noodles, sliced lotus and shiitake mushrooms. The menu offers a number of combos, but diners can also select a broth and add any desired ingredients, if your pocketbook allows.
Diners critical of hot pot restaurants complain that the instructions are nebulous, and that is likely true. There was a guide on the menu suggesting how long to cook the vegetables, meat and seafood, but we found that it took much longer than the suggested time (after all, every ingredient is so different it is difficult to fit them into broad categories like “seafood— one minute”).
I will say that my dining partner was struggling, his udon noodles flopping awkwardly out of the hot pot as he tried to make sure that the Asian sausage was cooked adequately. My advice is to put in all the vegetables and noodles first, then the meat and finally the seafood, and, then, cook everything for at least five minutes (even the seafood).
When we tried the ingredients with the broth served over rice, we were very pleased with how the meal turned out. We decided to end the night with a couple of scoops of green tea ice cream, which was sweet and satisfying.
Our first hot pot experience was a success. For our next trip to Hot Pot and Asian Grill, we’ll walk in like seasoned chefs, our kitchen timers at the ready.
Open 11am-9pm, Tuesday-Thursday.
4038 Talmadge Rd. | 419-214-0600