Ju — Hokkaido Kelp Hotpot (Taiwan)

November 18, 2011 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

There are more and more hotpot restaurants in Taiwan, and while they aren’t exactly my thing, I do enjoy the occasional hot broth with fresh meat and lots and lots of vegetables.

Ju (聚) is one of the newer upper market hotpot joints that specialises in Hokkaido kelp soup bases, which is supposedly lighter and healthier.  The restaurant is in the same group as Tasty, Yuan Shao and Pin Tian (click on the links for my reviews), so you know you’re in for a quality meal that will fill you up to the neck.

Ju has a simple menu that offers essentially two set meals — the more expensive NT$540 (+10% service charge) set which offers higher quality meats and more courses, or the economic $340 (+10% service charge) set which was good enough for me.  You choose the flavour of your soup base, a meat, a small dish like meat paste, balls or dumplings, rice or noodles and a dessert.  Trust me, it’s a lot.

Unlike some shabu shabu restaurants that have in-built pot cookers, Ju uses an electronic hotplate.  And unlike some shabu shabu restaurants, you get your own table and only sit with people you’re with.  It’s usually one pot between two people, but it’s essentially individual as they can put a divider in the pot to split it into two.  Of course, if you go by yourself or the numbers are odd, you can get a whole big pot to yourself.

Every set comes with a big bowl of vegetables, tofu, taro, pumpkin, tomato, mushrooms, etc.  You also get a big plate of thinly sliced meet — beef, pork, fish or a mixed platter (two meats), though it’s advisable to select widely and share.

For the small dish, we got a complimentary meat paste, and we ordered a mixed set of crab meatballs and taro wheels.

I ordered the udon.

You also get unlimited plum vinegar (to cleanse the palette, so they say).

The quality of the food is self-evident, but what makes me give Ju the thumbs up is the dipping sauce they provide.  Ju doesn’t allow you to make your own sauce like a lot of other places; instead, they give you two — a sour soy dipping sauce with chilli and spring onions, and my personal favourite, the sweet sesame sauce.  I was dipping everything in that sesame sauce.

For dessert, we picked two — a Hokkaido orange milk pudding and a longan black fungus sweet soup.

As I said before, hotpots aren’t really my thing, but Ju is a place I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to.  Fresh, quality food, excellent variety, your own pot, and one awesome sesame sauce.

8.5 out of 10!

Details:

Ju Hokkaido Kelp Hotpot (聚北海道昆布鍋)

Website: http://www.giguo.com.tw

Price: NT$340-540 per person (+ 10% service charge).

Stores and contact: currently 9 stores in Taipei — Nanjing East Road, Dunhua North Road, Zhongxiao East SOGO, Dunhua South Eslite, Hengyang Road, Nanchang Road, Dapinling, Banqiao, Chungli) — for addresses, nearest MRT stations phone numbers and maps, see http://www.giguo.com.tw/store.htm (in Chinese but can use Google to translate).

Open 7 days for lunch (11:30-14:30) and dinner (17:30-22:00).

Bookings recommended.

Gokohai: All You Can Eat ‘Shabu Shabu’ in Shanghai

July 6, 2011 in China, Food, Reviews, Travel

And so the posts from my March visit to China continue (I know, I know,  I’m too slow).

In recent years, I have become somewhat of a fan of the shabu shabu (ie, Japanese-style hot pot), especially the ones where you get your own pot and don’t have to share saliva with everybody else.  There’s not much of that in Sydney (at least none that are genuinely awesome and/or come at a reasonable price), so I made sure I took advantage in Shanghai.

The one we went to was a very popular one called Gokohai Shabu Shabu (though I only found out the English name when I saw the business card).  I believe there are 6 stores in Shanghai and we visited one of them (that’s all I know; more details at the end of this post).  There were two floors and both allowed smoking (unfortunately), but we were lucky to get a separate room, though it was one of those where the table is real low and the there is a hole underneath it for you to slide your legs.  Not the most comfortable seating arrangement but it was better than inhaling the cigarette smoke (in addition to the hot pot smoke).

The best thing about Gokohai is that it’s an ‘all you can eat’ shabu shabu, meaning you can just keep ordering plates upon plates of succulent meats, fresh vegetables and all the condiments you want (only one scoop of ice cream for dessert per person though and drinks are extra).  However, unlike most such places, the quality of the meat and vegetables is exquisite.  The thinly sliced beef literally melts in your mouth.  And the sauces and condiments are simply sublime.

Let me explain through the crappy quality photos I took with an iPhone (sadly the camera battery died).

Everyone gets a dish of these condiments.  On the right is a stack of spring onions which I simply love.  In the middle is a wedge of lemon and crushed garlic (mmm) and on the left are balls of carrot and radish.  You mix whatever you want from this plate with soy sauce, vinegar, and/or this sensational sesame paste sauce that I couldn’t get enough of.

Check out the vegies you get at the start.  I don’t like tofu, but everything else on this plate I polished off.  And I got a few more plates after this too.

Everyone gets their own pot, which looks just like this.

Chuck in the stuff, wait until it’s cooked, then eat away!

Look at this beef, and try to imagine what it would look like if my camera hadn’t died.  We must have gotten a zillion plates of these.

I can honestly say it was one of the most satisfying shabu shabu experiences I’ve ever had.  And with a price range around 100-199 RMB, it was well worth it.

9 out of 10

Address: 1720 Huaihai Lu (near Wuxing Lu), Shanghai (French Concession district)
Phone: 021-6471 7657

(Don’t think this is the store we went to but I think it’s the main store).

Taiwanese Mini Hot Pot!

January 11, 2010 in Food, Taiwan, Travel

I’ve never been a big fan of the hot pot.

Especially those ones where everyone shares a massive pot, dipping their used utensils in the broth, creating a tepid pool of salivated filth.

If you are like me, then you’ll like the ‘mini’ hot pot or shabu shabu, which is super popular in Taiwan, especially during the winter.

(Check out the salivating photos and my verdict by clicking on ‘More…’)

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