5306 8th Ave (nr 53rd St)
City: Brooklyn, NY
Phone: (718) 633-5197
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Hot Pot
Area: Sunset Park
I must admit I'm rather new to the "hot pot" scene. I tried it once in Manhattan and remembered liking it quite a bit. So, when I stumbled upon Mr. Hot Pot in Brooklyn's Sunset Park I was all in. It's a quirky little spot where tables are equipped with remote-controlled cooktops and waiters who look more like secret service agents armed with lapel mikes and IFBs. An interpreter would also come in handy.
We arrived on a Saturday night and the place was packed. Without reservations, we found ourselves in the cold facing a 25-minute wait when we heard a tapping on the window. A mother and daughter, also waiting, asked if we'd like to share their table. We gladly accepted and that's when the food adventure really began with some newfound friends.
A hot pot is just as it sounds. A big pot of stock is placed in the center of the table. As the broth comes to a boil, various meats, seafood and vegetables are dropped. Think fondue only with soup. In place of cheese or chocolate for dipping is a bowl of soy sauce that can flavored with cilantro, garlic and a special housel sauce.
There are several types of broths to choose from. Feeling rather bold, and not quite understanding our waiter's broken English, we went for the "hot and spicy," something we lived to regret. The broth was teeming with dried chillies, peppercorns, star anise and other spices, some of which I could not recognize, in a slick of chili oil that turned out to be too much heat to tolerate.
Sliced duck all disintegrated in this witch's brew along with some live oysters. Skewered head-on shrimp held up well, as did baby clams which maintained a fresh briny flavor. It is the freshness of ingredients that truly stood out, including thinly sliced ribeye which took on some of the flavors from this pungent broth, but not overtaken by it. The restaurant also offers an excellent assortment of mushrooms and veggies for folks who may want to skip meat altogether.
After capping off our meal with a cool melon ice, we all agreed "hot and spicy" is probably not the way to go unless you are a glutton for punished. A mild broth with some heat added along the way would be a much better alternative. It was also time to say goodbye to our new friends who we discovered had come to New York via Belize, another hot destination.
Review By: Thomas Rafael