It is very tempting to call this my Hippot Review Review but I’ll refrain. “Hippot” should’ve tipped me off to this being a hot pot restaurant, but unfortunately I went to Chinatown completely ignorant of what I was jumping into.
Because if I had known, I probably would’ve looked up how to order at a hot pot restaurant without looking like a total idiot. So my first warning about Hippot Shabu Shabu (which I will heretofore affectionately referred to as HipShab) is that the waitresses, while very nice and almost certainly well intentioned, don’t speak awesome English. You’re pretty much on your own as far as questions like, “How does this work?”, “Is any of this vegetarian?” or “Does pig penis actually mean pig penis?”
It does, kids. It does.
The first thing you do is order your broth. Simple enough. My roommate and I got the half and half soup combo ($19.95), with “herbal pork” broth in one and “vegetable” broth in the other. The soups were then placed in the center of the table on a hot plate and left to boil for eternity (or until we left, not sure). The next step is to order your fixings. The menu consists of pages of vegetables, meats, fish, noodles, dumplings and “balls” (but like, fish balls or shrimp balls), all of which you can add to give your soup your own personal flair. While its tempting to order all of the things, pretty much every addition is $4-$8 extra, so unless you’re fucking Mark Zuckerberg (or fucking Mark Zuckerberg), you’ll probably only want to order only a few.
We got shrimp dumplings ($3.95), crab balls ($3.95), fried tofu sheet ($3.95) and Udon noodles ($3.95). We also get a complimentary plate of vegetables that has some cabbage, mushrooms, a piece of corn and an egg on it.
The shrimp dumplings were good but fishy. The crab balls were really good, and the fried tofu sheet is incredible. They’re papery thin pieces of fried tofu that you put in your broth for four seconds. Then they emerge as little heavenly sheets of flavor. The udon noodles were pretty standard udon noodles.
This is where I should probably mention, for those of you who are as ill informed as I was, that hot pot means you cook everything yourself, which makes HipShab more of an experience restaurant than anything else. It’s like going to a fondue place or a hibachi restaurant. The food is good, and there’s a bar, which is cool if you’re 21 or have an ID that says you are, but really it’s kind of expensive for what it is and the service is definitely lacking, so you’re paying for the experience.
It would be a fun first date for a gastronomically adventurous couple, or just a group of people who are looking for an activity to go along with their dinner, and maybe want to try a bit of pig penis.