Escape From the Cold at Hot Pot 97
Hot Pot 97
Chinese Hot Pot
10602 97 Street
When it’s -20 outside, a place called Hot Pot 97 is quite inviting. This new restaurant at 10602-97 Street in Chinatown offers an all-you-can-eat, cook-at-your-table, dinner-time-only buffet for $25.95 (children: $12.95). One starts with a hot bowl of chicken broth placed on a personal burner with individual heat controls in a hole at the granite table. Other more exotic soup options are also available ($2 extra). From an exhaustive list of meats and veggies, orders are made by ticking off the desired items which are to be placed in the hot soup for quick cooking.
Almost anything seems to be on the list: thin slices of chicken, pork, lamb, or beef; various types of fish and seafood; homemade balls of seafood or meat; various internal organs; different types of tofu; noodles; and a wide range of vegetables. In addition, some appetizers not meant for the hot pot were available at no extra cost. The portions were generally small, but more were always available. Over twenty different types of sauces and garnishes were available for dipping, from mild vinegars to chopped onion to chopped garlic and chili oil.
The thinly sliced meats cooked almost instantly in the hot soup. Coupled with selected sauces (the bean sauces were my favourite), they were lean and tasty. The vegetables were fresh and also cooked quickly remaining crunchy but hot. The freshly made fish and shrimp balls were particularly delicious along with pork dumplings. The more exotic items were probably acquired tastes but to each his own. My companions and I went through about 25-30 small plates of ingredients for the three of us. The items came individually, so we could get started with whatever came first. The first order came quite quickly, but the second order took a little while. We probably should have ordered before we completely finished the first helping.
After eating from an almost-boiling soup bowl for an hour and a half (two hours is the limit according to the menu), I was certainly warmed up enough to return to the cold temperatures outside. And regardless of the weather, I would certainly return to Hot Pot 97.
John is a resident of Boyle Street.