This week, instead of eating at Yallah Taco for the 90th time this semester, I ventured out to sample hot pot for the first time at a new Taiwanese joint on Calder Way.
Coincidentally, The Hut Pot, which opened this summer, is located in the space that used to be a Yallah Taco.
For those not in the loop, hot pot is an iconic style of Chinese cooking involving a piping-hot bowl of broth piled high with noodles, meat and vegetables. The dish the food is served in is heated by a small flame underneath, so it simmers while you eat.
The exterior of the restaurant was unassuming — we walked right past it and would have kept walking had Google Maps not told me to turn back around.
The restaurant is just a stone’s throw from El Jefe’s Taqueria, which I also reviewed this semester.
Stepping inside, the restaurant was warm and smelled absolutely delicious, like fried food and spicy broth. An employee quickly sat us, and I took stock of my surroundings.
Evidently, the owners of The Hut Pot haven’t yet had time to take down the previous tenants’ decorations — a colorful mural depicting tortilla chips, onions, tomatoes and hot peppers adorned the wall across from me.
As far as ambience goes, 2013 is alive and well in The Hut Pot. I wasn’t expecting to eat hot pot while tunes to the likes of “Take Me to Church” and “Royals” echoed softly in the background, but I’m not complaining.
There were only a few other patrons in the restaurant, who all looked to be thoroughly enjoying their meals. Excited, we opened our menus.
Barring appetizers and drinks, there are only eight items on the menu at The Hut Pot. As someone who struggles with making decisions, this was perfect for me.
I ordered the House Special Noodle Pot, which consists of a flavorful broth topped with plenty of braised beef, braised sirloin, pork crackling, salted peanuts, bok choy and a braised egg over a base of rice noodles. It normally contains beef tendon as well, but I requested it without, as beef tendon is not my thing. I also ordered a side of rice.
My dining partner ordered the Sichuan Supreme Spicy Pot. I usually sample off my friends’ plates for my reviews, but his dish contained shrimp, and I am allergic to shellfish. So while I am willing to get sick from food for The Daily Collegian, I’m not willing to have an allergic reaction for The Daily Collegian.
For drinks, I tried to order aloe vera juice in the spirit of trying new things. The restaurant was out of it. As a backup, I requested the peach sparkling water, but The Hut Pot was out of that too. I eventually settled on iced tea.
I recognized the bottle as something sold at Cornerstone Asian Market, which is also located on Calder Way. The tea was delightfully sweet, and I chugged it all at once. I’ll probably stop by the market at some point to pick up a six-pack.
It took a long time for our meals to arrive at the table, but considering there were only three employees darting around, operating the front desk, serving tables and working in the kitchen, this didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Shortly after the food arrived, the waiter lit the tiny stove under our bowls. It wasn’t a candle but rather a schmear of green stuff that popped and crackled when it was lit. I spent the entire dinner wondering what it was.
As the broth bubbled gently in my dish, I broke apart my chopsticks and dug in.
Everything was seasoned to perfection. The owners of The Hut Pot obviously know what they’re doing. They could serve me an old shoe or a pile of cigarette butts in that broth, and I’d eat it with gusto.
My favorite parts of the meal were the pork crackling and the braised egg. After eating everything on top, I drank almost all of the broth. I hardly had room for the noodles at the bottom, so unfortunately I left most of them behind.
My recommendation: The Hut Pot is perfect for anyone looking for an unpretentious but authentic and hearty weeknight meal and leftovers to bring home.
I’ll be back in the near future to sample more of its menu — I’ve got my eye on the Healthy Veggie Pot for next time.
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Victoria Gough is a campus and downtown blogger for The Daily Collegian. She is a junior majoring in advertising with a minor in German.
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