Hot pot restaurants are trending big time. They’re popping up all around the country – and the world!
I have excellent recommendations from some very “in the know” friends in NYC. I need to organize a group dinner and invite someone who is an expert so we get the full experience and understand the ins-and-outs of hot pot culture.
As to why this hot pot craze might be happening, I’ve heard some of it is driven by economics i.e. a good hot pot restaurant needs fewer chefs, bussers, wait staff etc. It’s very DIY. All you really need is a great broth. The customers do everything themselves. I’m sure that’s an over-simplification but makes sense given restaurant trends.
Per Eater Taipei:
- Implicit in traditional hot pot is a sense of intimacy and egalitarianism. There is no head chef. Anyone can slide a plate of bamboo shoots or baby corn into the boiling broth; anyone can ladle out food. The intimacy comes from sitting and sharing a meal, but also because everyone is eating from the same vessel. Throughout the meal, diners check on the food. The act of eating hot pot requires diners to communicate, interact, learn to trust, and take comfort from one another.
Read on below for some recent openings around the country.
Bellevue Washington: Hot pot is booming in Bellevue right now. (Source: Seattle Times, April 19, 2019)
- At the trendy Dolar Shop at The Bravern in Bellevue, you need to make reservations at least a week in advance.
- Liuyishou, in nearby Vancouver BC, has an almost cultlike following.
- (Note: Liuyishou also opened in Flushing Queens in December – complete with 2-hour waits).
- And things will get even more bonkers in Seattle in the fall when the hot-pot spot HaiDiLao, one of the world’s most beloved restaurant chains, opens at Pacific Place.
- That global sensation will easily be one of the biggest restaurant openings Seattle has seen in the past five years.
- In Asia, by the way, HaiDiLao offers free shoe shines, neck massages and manicures to fans who endure the three-hour wait. And they’ve also just started using a robot soup chef (see video at end of post).
Fresno just got their first hot pot restaurant earlier this month.
- J Pot Mini Hot Pot & Bar opened for lunch with bubbling mini hot pots on the tables, a boba tea counter, a full bar and a patio that overlooks the rest of sports center where it’s located.
Honolulu just opened Shabuya – an all you can eat hot pot spot.
In NYC, my hot pot expert gave me these recommendations:
- Hometown Hotpot – her go-to in Chinatown for lunch.
- Shabu-Tatsu – Japanese hot pot favorite in East Village
- Hakata Tonton – Newest Japanese spot featuring “tonsoku” in West Village
- Lao Cheng Yi Guo – Lamb-based Chinese hot pot in Flushing
Every city in America has a Top 10 Hot Pot list whether in Portland, Boston, San Diego or Yonkers!
And finally, must share vital info on the Haidilao Hot Pot chain and their Robot Soup Chef
- In an interview with Forbes, Haidilao founder Zhang Yong who has a net worth of US$8.2 billion, said that Haidilao has been opening a new restaurant every three days.
- New locations break even within one to three months.
- Foreigners are to thank for this for they have a huge curiosity for Chinese culture.
- “Much of our history and customs can be learned through food,” he told Forbes.
- Zhang emphasized that overseas expansion is a “must” for Haidilao.
- It’s better to scale fast and be everywhere, instead of having a single towering presence.
- Zhang said he plans to enter new markets where Chinese migrants live.
- New Haidilao destinations include England, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Here’s their newly introduced autonomous cooking system at one of its Beijing restaurants.
MUST organize a Hot Pot excursion soon. And we need an expert leader. Who’s in on this with me? We’ll do it in May.