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Restaurant Review: Mr. Pot

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Mr. PotPhotos by Miriam Bowers Abbott.
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If it’s not already a big thing, Hot Pot is on its way. Within the last year, Columbus has added three Hot Pot destinations to its line-up: Secret Vessel, Peking Hot Pot and the subject du jour: Mr. Pot in Kenny Centre.

For the uninitiated, the hot pot concept is one that’s vaguely similar to that of the Melting Pot… only without the cheese sauce. At Mr. Pot, you choose a broth and a variety of raw foods, then you cook it all yourself.

In spite of theoretical similarities to the Melting Pot, let’s begin with a personal admission: it’s totally unfamiliar territory. The Melting Pot is thoroughly westernized, that is not the case at Mr. Pot. And, as the Pot place was fairly unpopulated during the visit, there were no nearby guests to watch and imitate. Given that the host/server was gracious and accommodating, the table somehow managed to accumulate several extra tools for cooking and eating: two metal ladles (one was slotted), traditional scooped soup spoons, chopsticks, fondue forks and regular forks. Seasoned Hot Pot veterans will probably not need all those tools, and even with the tools, we still somehow managed to send a meatball rolling across the floor.

That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, though. As a bonus, the restaurant soundtrack for the day was a deliciously atypical urban genre that featured every verbal bomb in the dictionary, that is: f-bomb, mf-bomb and n-bomb.

The menu is easy to follow. First choice is the broth. The server said the tomato and traditional beef broths were the most popular. He also suggested the spicy one, with the proviso, “It’s really hot.” In the interests of an unsinged palate, the first two recommendations were followed. Ambitious types can opt for a buffet of cooking ingredients (around $26), but the regular combos provide more food than can be eaten. For the test drive, the Meat Lover ($13.99) and Vegetarian ($9.99) were selected.

Next, little empty bowls are delivered to guests, with instructions to visit the condiment table. There, diners find a selection of sauces and enhancements, some labeled in English, some not. Satay, Peanut, Hoisin: those are familiar and likable. The table is filled with good options, but frankly, the condiments were forgotten as the excitement of the cooking and eating ultimately become consuming.

Then the hot pot of cooking broth comes to the table. It sits on a built-in table burner. Then little bowls of rice arrive, and beautifully arranged plates of raw ingredients.

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Then, you just cook stuff. It’s hard to go wrong, given the quality of the broths. The beef version light in color, but it boasts a rich, savory, comforting flavor. The tomato broth was predictably reddish, it too had a full-bodied flavor, more than one would expect from brothy cooking water.

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Regarding the ingredients: the Meat Lover comes with Shabu Beef, “beef balls” stuffed with mozzarella, KC Beef (yes, Kansas City, we asked), pork meatballs and chicken chunks. The ultra-thin cuts of Shabu Beef cook instantly, the KC beef takes more time, as do the little meatballs and chicken. The mozzarella-stuffed item was MIA or indiscernible. There’s lots of marinades in the different meats, but the infused broth and the tender texture of the cooked goods truly define the experience. All in, it’s a nice, light savory package.

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As for vegetable land: broccoli and mushrooms were the favorite, predictably. The tendrils of the broccoli are uniquely suited to suck up extra flavorful broth during the cooking process. There’s an ample supply of snow peas, carrots, potatoes and baby corn too. On top of all that, both the meals come with a side basket of spinach, ears of corn on the cob, and bamboo shoots. You can cook that up too.

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Given all this activity, it may be understandable that halfway through the meal, the aforementioned condiments were forgotten, and it was pretty much a pot-to-mouth eating experience. Pot-to-mouth is probably not the correct protocol, but it does speak to the excellence of the edibles.

You can check it out for yourself at 1178 Kenny Centre Mall.

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