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Hot pot goes uptown

By Ye Jun | China Daily | Updated: 2010-12-26 09:25

 Hot pot goes uptown

 East 33 at Raffles Beijing offers a hot-pot buffet with big diversity and superior quality foods. Provided to China Daily



Top restaurants find ways to deliver this winter classic with style, Ye Jun discovers.

Hot pot might well be the ideal way to dine out, especially as one wants to warm up from the chilly winds of winter. The best thing about it is the diversity of ingredients - you can put almost everything in the pot and boil, and dip in a sauce of any flavor.

If one tries to find fault with hot-pot dining, though, maybe it is not particularly a way of fine dining, and the tables can be too full of foods for table manners to have much sway. That might be the reason it is rare to see a hot-pot restaurant in five-star hotels. But recently, East 33 at Raffles Beijing set a precedent - offering a hot-pot buffet to replace the restaurant's traditional seafood buffets in the evening.

Hot pot goes uptown

With that East 33, for the evenings in this winter, has turned itself into a hot-pot restaurant with the best fine dining environment, and one of the best services in Beijing. Moreover, the restaurant offers the same big diversity and superior quality of foods.

A porcelain pot is served on a portable stove with a bottle of gas that can be changed easily. The waiting stuff will turn on the fire, but the guest can control the volume. The pot is big enough for two people to share.

Besides spicy Sichuan broth, one can choose between a nutritious chicken broth, a healthy Chinese herbs broth, and a Thai tom yom broth, which really opens the appetite with its spicy and sour taste. There is a condiments station, where one can find sesame oil and garlic, sesame paste, spring onion and coriander, as well as fermented bean curd and soy sauce.

A look around the restaurant's buffet station will surely delight those who like seafood. The restaurant has prepared freshly sliced sea bass, catfish, blue flower crab, white prawns, as well as sea bream, mackerel and grass carp. On top of all that, there is baby lobster, boiled ready.

There are nine different kinds of mussels and clams. The meatball station has not just mutton and beef, but the popular cuttlefish, crab and conch. There are too many items to count at the meat station, but there are from the regular beef and lamb slices, to more locally popular beef stomach, beef tripe, beef trachea, duck intestines, and duck gizzard. Everything looks ever so fresh.

Those who are health-conscious will be happy to find 12 options at the mushroom and fungus station, and all sorts of bean curds. The vegetable station has 20 choices. Apart from that one can choose from nine kinds of noodles to boil in the hot pot.

If you want to try something already prepared, you can make a trip to the baked station and find Peking roast duck, Cantonese-style chicken, ham and sausage. Or try Chinese stewed dishes, which are served warm in four big clay woks, featuring braised beef, goose with pickled vegetables, and braised fish.

My secret favorite corner is the pickles station, which has fantastically refreshing preserved carrot, radish and cabbage. These sour-tasting vegetables really help when you feel a bit full.

Finish the meal with a visit to the dim-sum station, where you can find sesame cake, and yu teow (deep-fried flour dough). The restaurant's dessert station has an array of beautiful cakes and fruits. Or if you are feeling swell, end the meal with two balls of Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

That gratifying buffet meal of hot pot costs 248 yuan ($37) per person every evening from Sunday to Thursday.

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