As I wrote in my last article, I promised y’all that I’d go back to De Tasty Hotpot to try the actual hotpot, and I finally got around to it last weekend. I went with a friend of mine, Alisa, who visited me right after the snowstorm hit. Since hotpot is best in the winter — and particularly comforting when there’s a foot and a half of snow outside — we made the trek to Collegetown to eat lunch at De Tasty.
Alisa is Chinese-American and grew up eating hotpot with her family, so I was excited to hear her critique of the experience and food. We made our way down the tiny staircase into the restaurant for lunch. It wasn’t very crowded, so we were seated immediately.
Hotpot is a very communal dish and is meant to be shared with the people you’re eating with. To get the full experience, I’d recommend trying it at least once with your friends. On a paper menu, you circle the type of broth you want and choose the meat, noodles and vegetables to go in the soup. After you give your order, they bring out the boiling soup base and place it on a hot plate embedded in the table so that it stays hot. Then they bring out the additional ingredients that you ordered. You use this “hotpot” to cook the ingredients yourself at the table.
We ordered the Special Spicy Hot Soup and the pork combo. I’d generally recommend getting one of the combos off the menu as they seem to give you the most bang for your buck. The pork combo came with thinly sliced pork, cabbage, corn, tofu, tomato, enoki mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, baby bok choy and thin vermicelli noodles. In addition, we ordered the sweet potato jelly noodles and pork belly.
Since most of the cooking is done at the table, the food came out in under ten minutes. The pot was split into two sections, which is great if you want to bring vegetarian friends with you, since you can cook the veggies and noodles on one side and the meat on the other. Also, you could hypothetically order two types of broth, accommodating for those who don’t eat spicy food.
One of the most impressive things about eating hotpot is the visual aspect: there’s just so much food stacked up ready to be cooked and eaten. After admiring the view, we dived right in. I tried the pork first after cooking it in the soup for about 30 seconds. It was incredible. The thin pork slices were extremely tender and infused with flavor from the spicy soup. The soup was the key part of the meal that held all of it together. It was extremely spicy — I can handle my spice, but this was a lot even for me — and added so much flavor to everything that we cooked in it. Since it was a Szechuan-style soup, it contained many peppercorns, which made the soup numbingly spicy.
The sweet potato noodles were the best part of the meal. They absorbed the flavor of the soup and had the perfect chewy texture. I found myself searching through the soup at the end looking for any last remaining pieces of the noodles. If you are ordering hotpot at De Tasty, make sure you order these noodles; I cannot recommend them enough.
The only part of the meal that I didn’t particularly enjoy was the pork belly. I didn’t like the texture and toughness of the meat; it was thicker than what I’d expected, so keep that in mind when ordering.
Alisa and I spent about $20 each at this eatery. She loved the food a lot, and agreed that the hotpot was authentic. After this experience at De Tasty Hotpot, it has become my favorite sit-down restaurant in Collegetown. The food has great flavor, and hotpot itself is an exciting and unique experience. If you are looking for a new and interesting restaurant experience, go check out De Tasty!
Serves: traditional hotpot and authentic Szechuan dishes
Vibe: a casual restaurant for communal eating