Back in what seems like a thousand years ago, I was at University and lived with International students from China. It was a great experience which broadened both my cultural and gastronomical horizons; it did also, however, broaden my waistline. One glorious day I was invited to a friend of a friend’s birthday party at a popular Chinese restaurant I had previously frequented many a times. This time however, was different because we were led up to the upstairs dining room (I never even knew it existed) where I was the only “foreign” diner and the menu was all in Chinese. This is where I discovered Hot Pot; I didn’t know what I was eating but I mimicked my fellow Chinese dinners and ate like an emperor.
Imagine my face of glee when perusing around Valencia Chinatown and stumbling across a sign outside a restaurant advertising Hot Pot. The feeling of excitement and emotion was hard to contain in a dignified manner but who cares, we are talking about food, and food moves me. As soon as I could get my friends together, we headed to this restaurant to eat like emperors, or more like pigs. The experience however was a bloody nightmare; I felt conned and so let down that I feel compelled to share my story to warn others for the sake of humanity.First of all the meat and “chicken” balls came to the table frozen; I’m sure it can’t be hygienic to dump in a load of frozen meat into a pot of boiling broth and even if it is ok, it doesn’t really say much about the quality of the restaurant. The rest of the Hot Pot components weren’t much better: shrivelled to death enoki mushrooms, a meagre amount of a mysterious sauce (it was actually nice but it wasn’t enough to feed all the diners), burnt chilli oil that was devoid of any heat (probably because the spiciness had been thoroughly cremated) and if that wasn’t disastrous enough, there was a complete absence of the advertised dumplings, herbs and Youtiao. We asked for the spicy broth but even though it looked good and there were a few chillies floating around it was tasteless, bland and perplexingly not spicy at all, which didn’t help with the already bland “chilli oil”. The only good things were the egg noodles and Chinese cabbage…but if that was the only highlight, it doesn’t say much about the overall experience, does it? To make things worse, the service was abysmal. Our waitress selfishly decided to dump in ALL the meat into the pot at once without even asking, maybe she thought that we hadn’t noticed that the meat was frozen and she was trying to get rid of the evidence. I felt robbed of my Hot Pot experience where the whole point is to add the meat bit by bit when you want to cook and eat it and alternate with other ingredients. To cap it off, after we had told her that we wanted to do it ourselves she came back towards the middle of the meal and dumped in the rest of our fried tofu in the pot. I was not a happy bunny.
After the Hot Pot we were still quite hungry but I refused to order anything else in that place as I had lost all trust and hope in it so we ended up going across the road to Felisano for a 70cent baozi and Pasteleria Tiramisu for a slice of chinese cake; best part of the night!
In conclusion, save yourself your sanity and money and avoid this restaurant like the Black Death and wait until a better place serving Hot Pot comes along; or have it at home as we ended up doing a few days later to satisfy our Hot Pot needs.
Where: Calle de Pelayo, 16 (AKA Chinatown)
Price Range: €
No website (not surprising, I wouldn’t advertise it either)