Little plates of veggies zoom around as you're lulled by the gently bubbling hot pot and aromas of the brand-new HotSpot Korean BBQ. Newly opened on the Southside, HotSpot offers a unique experience and a slightly overwhelming variety. Be ready to try new things.
All-you-can-eat hot pot is a flat $23.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids 4-9 years old. As there's boiling liquid and a grill right at your table, parents, keep an eye on those small hands. I recommend adding the all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ for an extra $3/person-it's well worth it.
For the uninitiated, a hot pot is less a soup and more a dip/cooking method; you gradually add ingredients, which are cooked in mere seconds. The broth isn't for drinking, so feel free to ramp up the spices.
There are four broth choices: original, pork bone, herb and hot and spicy. Yes, there's a vegetarian version. Hot and spicy is flavored with Sichuan pepper, giving a flavorful kick. To me, it tastes like fall. It's winter, so I ordered the original. Here's where the fun part came in: building flavors. The sauce bar has everything from soy sauce to sesame butter, fresh accoutrements like cilantro, garlic, jalapeños and more. After adding some fresh ingredients, I was ready.
There is a cold bar with thinly sliced, slightly frozen meat (so it doesn't overcook)-lamb (a must try) and brisket, seafood: half crabs, mussels, squid, and a variety of meats such as beef ribs, chicken and sliced beef, all marinated and ready for the grill on your table.
A conveyor belt bar connected to every table around the room brings little bowls of veggies straight to you. HotSpot has a heck of a lot of options here, too. The bowls don't have the vegetables' names on them, so just grab what looks good. I recommend trying everything to find your favorite. Mushroom lovers will love Hot Spot, because there's wood ear (fluttering little black caps) and enoki (tall, skinny, white, clumped together)-my favorite. Napa cabbage and bok choy also worked really well in the broth. One I really liked was a light, leafy green with round leaves on long stems; I think it was white amaranth greens. After wilting in the broth, they were like spinach with more texture and flavor. I would've eaten more had I not wanted to try everything else.
As you progress through the amazing DIY adventure meal, you may require more broth. Just ask for a refill, but remember you'll have to rebuild those flavors. This is no time to play it safe. Try things you usually don't-there's zero risk.
Get there early and don't be in a rush; savor the experience. The staff isn't set up for reservations yet and the place serves only dinner so far. You wouldn't want to go there every night, but the ideal gathering place is a must-try.
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