Apparently this particular restaurant has several locations. I am talking about the one found on 10603 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX. Now that we have cleared that up, let me start with my introduction to this nifty place. I must note that this is actually my second trip to this fine eatery. A co-worker and friend of mine invited me to go out to the Asian part of town and explore the food markets and grocery stores then have dinner with her. I readily agreed. As I am a foodie and a chef, exploring where other cultures get their food is right up my alley. (I did major in anthropology in college after all.) So after a day of staring at huge durian fruit and marveling at the low price of outstanding produce we went to dinner.
At first glance this looked like a typical Chinese buffet type place. Oh how wrong I was. You see, there were quite a few differences in this buffet. First of all were the dishes. Sure you could find a nice assortment of things you might find at any other buffet, such as spring rolls with peanut sauce and pepper beef. Ah, but don't be fooled. There were other things such as sauteed duck's feet or cold chicken. My favorite was the Vietnamese fried omelete. but I will get to that later. The other difference was that this was a hot pot restaurant. This was really the main thrust of the place.
Another snazzy little addition to the place was a little side station where you could get things like roasted duck with steamed buns, soups and fried pancakes. I love me some roasted duck. They had some of the more typical soups such as won ton and sweet and sour.
This was my first introduction to hot pot eating. The twist to hot pot restaurants is that there is a butane burner placed on each table. When you are seated, the waiter brings a pot that is split down the middle and contains spicy broth on one side and normal broth on the other. Now, besides having the "normal" cooked selections in the buffet, there was one section of the buffet that provided you with raw ingredients for your hot pot. The ingredients ranged from the straight forward shrimp, beef, leafy greens or rice noodles to the more unusual beef stomach lining and kidney and fish and pork balls. NO, it is not what you think. They were balls of fish and pork that were steamed.
So after you pick out what you want to put in your broth, you go back to the table and cook it in the boiling broth. While this cooks you enjoy the other things the buffet has to offer. Like I said earlier, one of my favorite things was the fried Vietnamese omelete. Essentially, this is an omelete that has been folded over, is crispy and has bean sprouts and other goodies in the middle. You then wrap the omelete in a lettuce leaf and dip in a spicy dipping sauce before eating. Another memorable dish I ate was the sauteed duck's feet. They were quite tender, if a little bony.
So once our soup was done, we all dug in. Some of the things I chose to put in there were the stomach lining, kidney, and different type of balls. Some of them were unlabeled, but I chose to be a little adventurous. In reality after everyone adds their ingredients they get all mixed up and it is a free for all. So you might get a little of everything and not everything you put in.
After dinner they had many dessert options such as fruit and pastries. My favorite was by far the ice cream. Yeah, they had chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but what made the ice cream so special and good, was the green tea ice cream. Very light and refreshing. Also available was another dessert. Now I don't know what it was called or what it was made of since I did not initially get it. The item was a ball of something that looked like goo and was held in liquid. When it was dug into with a spoon, it did not break apart easily. Everyone at the table had a taste including myself. Well, it was an experience. The taste was fine. But the texture... oh the texture. It felt like a snot ball for lack of a better descriptor. Yikes. It was soft and squishy with something rough and slightly crunchy mixed in. I was surprised at how the texture made me dislike it so much.
Overall this was a good time out. I enjoyed the food and I like the making your own soup aspect of it. I recommend that you go out and try a hot pot restaurant at some point and time.