Huat Pot derives its name from the Hokkien greeting 'huat ah' which means 'to wish for prosperity.' Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – An all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant is the latest culinary destination in the Greenhills/San Juan area, which is known for its numerous Chinese eateries, ranging from casual noodle shops to opulent and cavernous restaurants that look like five-star hotels.
Huat Pot on P. Guevarra St. (off Wilson St.) recently held its official launch just in time for the Chinese New Year.
Located at the second floor of the new Metropoint Center (Rustan’s Fresh is on the ground level), this is surprisingly the first specialty shabu-shabu restaurant in San Juan, according to its owners.
Promising a “healthier” twist to the traditional Chinese hot pot, the spacious L-shaped restaurant boasts of modern interiors with a mix of seating options from booths to banquette seats and even private rooms. The hot pot tables were also built such that customers don’t need to stand up while cooking their food.
Modern interiors at Huat Pot. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
There is also no table top grilling in Huat Pot unlike other restaurants.
But what really sets Huat Pot apart from other similar restaurants is the degree of personalization it offers to customers. For instance, guests can choose from four soup stocks, including a vegetarian option, which the owners stressed are MSG-free.
“Dining becomes more personal and engaging.” Chef Jonas Ng, one of the owners of the new restaurant, said. “In turn, guests will enjoy and appreciate their food even more.”
Guests can select from a large array of ingredients from vegetables to meats, which include beef, pork, chicken and lamb. And since the restaurant is positioned as a Taiwanese-style shabu shabu, there are several kinds of imported meat balls from Singapore and Taiwan in the buffet, including lobster and the unique lobster with yam.
Ready for cooking. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
A sauce buffet allows guests to concoct their own sauces to suit their personal tastes.
Dessert includes fresh fruits like mandarin oranges, watermelon, papaya, mango, pineapple and dragon fruit, as well as a taho bar with different kinds of flavored syrups and colored pearls, and unlimited Magnum ice cream bars.
The beverage section includes sodas, juices, tea, coffee and also beer.
Priced at a flat rate of P688+, the hot pot has been receiving positive notices from foodies and bloggers for providing variety and value for money. However, make sure not to have leftovers as the restaurant can place a 50% surcharge on your bill “for wasting food,” according to a note placed on the tables.
How to enjoy a hot-pot meal
During a lunch for select food writers and bloggers, Chef Ng also shared the ingredients he uses for the sauce, which definitely came in handy when faced with several bowls in the sauce buffet.
The sauce buffet at Huat Pot. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Ng recommended putting a lot of the slightly spicy satay sauce, which is a favorite of hot pot aficionados. He then added minced garlic and ginger, fresh cilantro (wansoy), a lot of spring onion, sesame paste, a bit of Chinese black vinegar, diluted soy sauce (“so it’s not super-duper salty”) and chili. He said guests should then ask the waiters for egg yolk, which will add more richness to the sauce.
“This (sauce) is safe to start with and you guys can be adventurous and start your own thing,” he said.
As for the hot pot itself, guests must first choose their soup stock: the original Huat Pot Special; Sate or BBQ; the vegetarian Oden; and the spicy Mala. Since the cooking pots are shaped like the Chinese yin yang symbol, guests can choose two soup stocks. Waiters can just refill the cooking pot with more stock.
Ng said adding vegetables help in flavoring the soup base.
“If it’s your first time here, definitely get the taro, which also helps thicken the soup. The corn helps it with the sweetness a little bit. I would say also the carrot and cabbage will help make it sweet, as well. The mushroom has a lot of umami, while the mustard leaves give it a little kick. The watercress makes it mellow. The polonchay and the spinach serve the same purpose, to give it nice texture. The leaks will work as it gives it a nice onion flavor,” he explained.
Meat balls, seafood and other imported ingredients. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Apart from the usual meat balls in the buffet, Ng also recommended the kikiam (or hong niong) because of the traditional Chinese five spice, the Fuzhou fish balls (which have a minced pork filling) and the fish cakes. He also noted that the egg dumplings are unique to the restaurant, as well as the fried cod with basil.
“The crabs may be a hassle to eat but they really make the soup super amazing in terms of flavor,” he said, adding that one should put the balls and the vegetables when the soup starts to boil.
As for the meat, Ng said to add them once the soup has gained more flavor. He also reminded that the thin beef strips and the lamb will cook in 10-15 seconds, while the chicken and the fish will take slightly longer.
While waiting for the soup stock to flavor, hungry guests can already start feasting on the traditional Taiwanese dish, the loba or braised pork, which is bursting with flavor.
Ng also shared a tip: “Personally, what I do once the soup has reduced a bit and has taken a lot of the flavor, I put my noodles in and make it into a nice mami with some bola-bola and stuff, and put some leftover sauce in it.”
2/F Metropoint Center
P. Guevarra near corner Wilson St.
Greenhills, San Juan