Walking into Ochatto, the immediate smells of barbeque, fish, and spices lure you into this modernly decorated restaurant. At Ochatto, there are a few ways to dine: you can have a traditional sit–down experience, grill your own Korean barbecue, or sit at a large glass cooktop for the namesake hotpot. We go for the hotpot.
I order a vegetable tom yum broth, and my friend orders a spicy Szechuan broth, as well as fish balls, shrimp, red clam, enoki mushrooms, a cauliflower skewer, and a beef skewer. Hotpot is more of a family–style meal, with options like meat, fish, veggies, and noodles. While we wait for our food to arrive, we check out the sauce bar, where one can gather anything from peanut sauce to chili oil to garlic, and of course, salt and pepper, with a wide variety in between.
After about 10–15 minutes or so, our server comes back with two soup pots. He places them on the cooktop in front of us and turns the glass unit on. As the broth begins to come back to life, I throw in a shrimp and a fish ball, and watch as the bubbles dance around the pot. The steam smells slightly fermented, salty, and vaguely of celery. As the broth boils down, a server comes back and refills the broth with a kettle. Hotpot may be adventurous for those unaccustomed to cooking for themselves at a restaurant, but it’s a fun and delicious lunch to go to with a friend.
As for the food itself, some of the sides were hit or miss. The red clam was very tough and rubbery—which may be the result of some slight overcooking on my part—but the fish balls and shrimp were delicious and picked up the flavor of the broth well. The enoki mushrooms were an excellent choice as well, as they turned into a sort of noodle consistency when boiled in the broth. The tom yum broth itself was great, with slight notes of fermentation, salt, and vegetables; it was so good that I found myself drinking the warm broth alone at the end of the meal.
However, I do have some words of caution if you choose to go to Ochatto Hotpot. For one, the spicy is very spicy—so spicy that my friend, who insists he can handle his fair share of heat, was coughing and chugging water after his broth. The service can be a little hit or miss as well; we had to remind our server a couple times to bring water, and our appetizer skewers came out after the hotpot was already served. Also note that hotpot is a little messy, so plan your attire or date accordingly. Overall, though, the meal was delicious, and proved to be a great option for something a little different, right on campus.
TL;DR: A little messy, with somewhat spotty service, but delicious hotpot dishes.
Location: 3717 Chestnut Street
Monday to Saturday: 11 a.m.– 11 pm.
Sunday: 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.