The Warmth Around Hotpots

The Warmth Around Hotpots

Be it ala carte or buffet, there are so many of us who enjoy a good steamboat lunch and dinner. With so many styles of steamboat establishments emerging in Singapore, which are the ones that you fancy?
Siming T
Siming T

I wished I could turn back time, so that I would not get their Ravishing Tomato Soup (S$5.30) as the soup base of my hotpot.

Pardon my bluntness, but no amount of free soft toys would be able to compensate the disappointing taste that was close to bottled tomato ketchup with water. It was a far cry from tomato soup bases that I had tried from other hotpot chains across the island.

On the other hand, when I saw that their Vegetarian Soup was cheaper (S$3.80) and came with some vegetarian ingredients inside, I wondered if it would make sense to try that instead the next time.

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When the cravings for hot pot came at 9.30pm at night and the famous steamboat restaurant chain at [email protected] told us that the waiting time would be about 60 - 90 minutes, my friends and I chanced upon Upin Hot Pot.

The damage for five hungry diners amounted to about S$30.00 per pax for this ala carte hot pot, which I thought was still within a wallet-friendly range. In terms of the soup bases, I was a little disappointed with their Tomato Soup because it tasted more than a rich tomato broth, to the point that it tasted like some ketchup was also added to it. Similarly, the Pork Bone Soup broth might also have a tad too much herbs added in, and herbal Tonkotsu was not something I was prepared for (on the contrary the Chicken Soup might go better with herbal finishes). What we all liked the most was their Mushroom Soup base, which tasted more natural. We sort of even joked that with the amount of mushrooms in the pot, we could skip ordering mushrooms for the meal.

Condiments and cut fruits were available at the bar, but with an additional charge of S$3.00 per pax. Three of us went ahead to get the sauce without informing the staff, but I must say that they were attentive and did not charge that for all five.

I would not use the word “pampering” for this meal, but for a steamboat dinner, I considered this as “satisfying”.

The Prawn Soup Base was simply unforgettable because of its richness, and the quality is comparable with some of those renowned prawn noodles out there. The best way to enjoy it is to constantly scoop the soup into your bowls, so that the staff can regularly refill the pot, just to ensure that the soup does not taste too heavy on sodium. Their other signature soup base — Healthy Collagen — tasted a tad too bland for my liking, or maybe that was just because it was compared against the Prawn Soup Base and the Si-Chuan Soup Base.

Pity that some of the tastier items in the menu are only available as ala-carte items, as those are the ones (read: prawn balls, prawn paste and Japan Kurobuta pork belly) that will probably make me want to come back for more. The rest of the dishes available under the buffet were fine but lacked that surprise, as you would probably get the same stuff from other steamboat buffets.

Their steamboat comes in both ala-carte and buffet dinner options, with the latter priced at S$34.80 for two hours of dining (not inclusive of drinks).

#BurppleEatUp

One of the plus points of dining at Le Le Pot is that they offer both ala-carte and buffet pricings. For a weekend buffet dinner, the charges per head is S$25.90, and this pricing excludes the soup base (S$5.00 per pot, choice of up to two soup bases), wet tissue and beverages.

Given the choices of food available for the buffet, I find that this is a relatively good deal. And if I must recommend something good, please remember to order their Fried Chicken Wings to complement the steamboat. The rest of the carbs, in my humble opinion, can be missed.

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Hai Di Lao was a household name to steamboat lovers for many reasons. Some like to indulge in up to four types of soup bases in one meal; some will think that it is entertaining to watch the noodle master’s live in action; some will say that they are pampered from the time they step in until they leave the place; and some will simply visit because of positive reviews.

However, as an informed diner, I know that Hai Di Lao Hot Pot is not heaven for steamboat goers, but more of an experience of slightly above average food with service that exceeds expectations. I thought that their Beef Ball with Cheese was quite delicious, but apart from that, most of the other things in the menu seem to be no different from other steamboat buffet restaurants.

That said, I really loved their Tomato Soup Base, for the fact that it was tangy enough without appearing to be too salty at first contact.

Reservations at this restaurant is almost like a mandatory action, so long as you are not willing to stand or sit at the waiting area. Some say the reservation window period is about one week in advance, but if you are really lucky, you might be allocated a table for 2 or 4 if reservation is made the day before. Just make sure you start the meal with an empty stomach.

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When Golden Mile Complex houses so many Mookata shops, this one is probably the most appealing to me. At a nett price of S$29.90 per pax, the charges cover everything at unlimited portions, including their mozzarella and nacho cheese dip, meats, seafood, frozen foods, vegetables, rice, noodles, drinks and ice cream. It is just so comprehensive and basically one is not allowed to say that they leave this place feeling less than bloated.

I felt that some of the marinated meats are really tasty, and the bland foods are just meant to be dipped into the cheese or satay sauce dips. However the satay sauce was really not fantastic, so I did not pay much attention to it.

If there is really a downside to dining here, I can only say that this downside applies to all Mookata restaurants over here: be prepared to feel grimy and smell oily.

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Be amazed by how so many people choose to go for a buffet to have their last meal of the year!

Shin Minori Japanese Restaurant offers 163 buffet items to choose from their ala carte buffet menu. Other than the standard sashimi platters that most people will opt for, I like the fact that they also have a grill counter in their open kitchen, where the chef skilfully grills the skewered stuff to a complete crisp without adding in the char. It was super shiok to eat an all-crispy chicken skin skewer with that crackling sound.

And if there is one item I say is a must-order during the buffet, it has to be the Gyuniku Shogayaki, because the “wok hei” of the beef simply reminded me of a mouth-watering beef hor fun.

But really, I was also hoping for them to consider just throwing in some drinking water as part of the buffet. The prices that you see on their ala-carte buffet cover price does not factor in any beverage.

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Now this is something that is really off the menu, but as soon as you had enough of steamboat and are ready to take in some carbs to end off the meal, simply inform the staff that you would like a COCA Porridge.

What the staff will do next is to get some cooked rice (I suggest two persons to one bowl of rice), chopped spring onions and an egg, and the staff will cook the porridge, using the broth with all the essence from the steamboat, in your presence. For the next 10 to 15 minutes, watch how the rice transforms into some super-yummy porridge.

The safe option is always to choose to cook the porridge using the chicken soup, but if you are more adventurous and are willing to try something more exotic, go for the porridge in Tom Yum broth.

Quoting what the staff had told me, they are more than happy to prepare this at no extra charge, provided that they are not operating at high capacity.

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Many years ago, we go to Marina South for affordable BBQ Steamboat Buffet and stuff ourselves silly there. Many of us around my age (or older) can relate to that.

Today I have practically relived the good ol' days of BBQ steamboat with the Pagoda Steamboat by Flame Cafe. On top of the BBQ and steamboat (literally), they also provide a layer of steamer and a layer of sauce dip.

I would say that the cheese fondue is a popular and relatively safe option to choose, though Salted Yolk dip sounded delicious too. I can never imagine myself dunking Tom Yum salmon into chocolate sauce.

For the price you pay for the ala carte buffet, you also get to enjoy free flow beverages, ice cream and fruits, so it's really a good deal per se.

What's more exciting? Burpple has an ongoing promotion with Flame Café till 31 May 2017. You just have to follow some simple steps to enjoy your Pagoda Steamboat at S$19.90 per person for lunch and dinner, any day. Chope your tables now!

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"Tanglin Shopping Centre? Where's that?" Many people will think that I am referring to Tanglin Mall, but The Magic Of ChongQing Hot Pot is situated at level 4 of the quiet mall.

Serving 64 types of ingredients from meats to veggies to staple carbs, dinner at a price of S$35.90 is quite affordable. The Chicken Broth here is my favourite soup base, although the chilli lovers will not reject their 麻辣 Soup. Do try to scoop the chilli oil from the surface of the soup if you are not ready for some flamethrowing action.

The other thing I enjoy about eating here, is that they will serve complimentary items such as special meatballs, steamed and fried dumplings, water chestnut jelly and Eight Treasure Porridge (basically multigrain porridge to aid digestion).

One more thing that I will recommend here is the Eight Treasures tea (S$5.00), which I find useful in cooling my body from all the heat from the spice and the food. Ask for the hot version and you will even get to see some traditional long-mouth kettle action... just a little.

With a group of friends, I thought I had a great time catching up in this place. Reservations are always recommended, especially during weekends.

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It's true: queuing up for a table at JPot can be a chore especially during weekends, so the best way to enjoy your personal steamboat pot is to book a table (I used Chope).

And it may seem that each diner is individually given a pot of soup, your friends would probably not mind sharing some of their tasty soup bases available. One tip to share is to consider what ala carte ingredients you want to order before you decide on your soup base (eg. Tau Pok goes well with Laksa soup base, but maybe not so matching with Tom Yum).

Typically most items come in 4s or 6s, but if you are not sure you can always ask the waiters on duty. The table is not very big anyway, so you can always send in a few rounds of food orders so that the food come in small batches. If there are items I will always choose, they will be the Fish Noodles, Homemade Tofu, Pork Belly, Beef Brisket, Deshelled Prawns and Mushroom Combination.

Is ala carte steamboat more expensive than other steamboat buffet restaurants? Well, at any time of the day, my average spending here will be between S$35.00 and S$50.00 per person, and it largely depends on what my accompanying diners will choose. Just take note that time limit will be imposed during peak hours.

#BurppleXChope

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The downpour out there calls for a Laksa Steamboat. The Laksa soup base is quite rich and authentic in flavour, just nice for a hearty and satisfying steamboat experience. This ala carte buffet also has a decent range of menu, with some fried stuff to complement the soup-cooked items. Other popular soup bases such as spicy (麻辣) and herbal are also available.

Prices are revised at S$25.80 per adult whole day every day, excludes beverages.

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