70 Beach St #1, Boston, MA 02111
The name “Hot Pot Buffet” is a bit of a misnomer in that there is no buffet in sight, they do, however, have an all you can eat policy for a fixed price ($16 for lunch, $25 for dinner) which, if you are hungry enough, could be quite a bargain. Hot Pot Buffet is very easy to find as it is located right by the Chinatown gate and you can’t miss the huge sign with the cow on it.
To be honest, it looks a little run down on the outside and more than a little run down on the inside. We were seated at the bar in the center of the restaurant where diners have their own personal hot pot in a recess in front of them. I reviewed the accoutrements and the process of eating hot pot in our review of Q Restaurant so I won’t go into that much here as they were pretty much the same. At Hot Pot Buffet you place your order on menu cards that have boxes to tick off for which items you want, as you can see in the picture below, there are lots of options.
We ended up ordering: Beef Sirloin, watercress, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, and Wood Ear mushrooms. I got the black-bone chicken broth and my counterpart got the spicy Mala broth. The black bone chicken broth was good, (NOT as tasty as the broth at the Q Restaurant) but quite chicken-y with cilantro, scallions, and ginger in it. The Mala pot was also good, but it was HOT and is definitely not for the faint of heart. As you can see in the picture below it was loaded with chilies and had a delicious savory flavor, but I would not recommend this broth unless you have a very high tolerance for spice.
One of the differences between the Q Restaurant and Hot Pot Buffet was the dipping sauce provided. At Q you received soy sauce that you could personalize with different add-ins; here you received a thick brown sauce that was some combination of ginger, garlic, and soy. Since I am doing the Whole30 this month I could not try it but my counterpart declared it delicious and thought it would be especially good on fish. I did not this time have to miss out on dipping sauce entirely; I thought ahead and brought a bottle of Coconut Aminos.
Coconut Aminos can be used as a replacement for soy sauce (for those of us trying to avoid soy and gluten), it has a similar flavor, if a little sweeter, and I was happy to have it with me. It was especially important to have with the sirloin that we ordered which was OK but not particularly flavorful, and it was cut a little thicker than I like.
The vegetables on the other hand were a delightful array. They were fresh and clean and we got an interesting assortment. The favorite of both of ours would have to be the Chinese broccoli, but the close second would be the cauliflower, which I had never before seen served with hot pot. Also, the Wood Ear mushrooms were a great treat – this being the second time that I had them in hot pot.
Overall this was a pretty good experience. What the restaurant lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in value. Also, it was very easy for us to stick to our healthy eating resolutions here. I think I can unequivocally say that if you are in a situation where you have a restricted diet but want to eat out and are craving those Asian flavors, you really can’t go wrong with hot pot.