Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Restaurant Review: Hot Pot & Asian Grill

Hot Pot and Asian Grill
4038 Talmadge Rd.; Toledo, OH
Mon - Thu: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm; Fri: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm; Sun: 12:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Phone: (419)214-0600
Northeast corner at Talmadge and Sylvania

The Toledo Blade did a review of the Hot Pot Grill, which I will not link to here.  The restaurant reviewer didn't know what she was talking about, mainly because of her worldly experience (none), which was inversely proportional to her attitude - if the food doesn't look like a burger and fries, then what's it doing on my plate?  I couldn't let that one slide, so this afternoon I went over to see for myself.  Keep reading to get the straight money story on the Hot Pot and Asian Grill, and why people would want to eat there.

The trouble with this review is that I didn't have the hot pot for lunch.  I saw that they had bibimbap on the menu, and I am here to tell you that bibimbap is some good eating.  Plus I was by myself.  I think if I'd had Main Lady with me, we'd have ordered the hot pot.  Fortunately for me, I'm welcome back so I can get it next time.  Plus, some people at the next table were having it and weren't a bit shy about sharing and telling me all about it.

The atmosphere at the Hot Pot is restful.  The place has excellent acoustics, so if there are six drunks raucously celebrating a birthday at the next table they don't stand a chance of overwhelming the entire dining area.  They have music playing softly in the background - smooth jazz classics, not elevator music - and the overall decor is tasteful without being pretentious.  It's restful, and I enjoy that in a restaurant.

The service is well above average.  I was greeted promptly and seated in some prime real estate next to the window.  I mention this because the wait staff knows which are the most desirable tables and didn't make me ask for one.  I was served promptly and my waitress was friendly.  Contrary to popular belief, my waitress was fluent in English, and was quick to explain what a hot pot was and how to deal with it.

Couple at the Next Table

 The couple at the next table were from Columbus, and remarked that if this place were open in Columbus it would be standing room only from the first day they opened their doors.  I tend to agree.  If you've ever been to Short North, you could easily envision the Hot Pot in the Short North neighborhood.  Anyway, here is the eponymous hot pot.

Hot Pot
The hot pot is a tureen of broth into which you toss raw food.  This is a little like fondue, except it isn't cheese and you aren't dipping anything.  You pick out a few items from the thirty or so offered, then you put them in to cook, generally one or two at a time.  Note that the bowl holding the broth is sitting on a an electric burner.  The broth is boiling hot, so you nuke an item or two and transfer the items to your plate.  Then you select and nuke a few more.  There's a selection of sauces and spices you can use as it amuses you, so your meal is never boring.

Should you be at a complete loss, your server will help you.  They offered to help me, but I explained I was beyond help.  Additionally, there's a little card sitting on your table that suggests how to deal with the hot pot menu item.  Don't overlook it, as it has cooking times on it.

Cooking Instructions
Another alternative is the Szechuan fire pot, which is what I'm likely to get tomorrow at lunch.  This is a spicy stir fry and comes in a chaffing dish variant specifically designed to hold it.  Again, you choose what goes into your fire pot, but the standard offerings include beef, chicken, pork, seafood and vegetarian.

Szechuan Fire Pot
The bibimbap was excellent.  I meant to get a picture of it, but I was distracted.  Like I say, I was hungry.  Anyway, take my word for it, it's good.  The bibimbap came in an actual stone bowl which is heated to about eight zillion degrees, and the food actually heats up and cooks right in the bowl.  The thing that I look for in bibimbap before I taste it is the egg.  If the egg isn't done correctly, if it's over or under cooked, the rest of the dish is suspect.  The chef cooked the egg perfectly.

For desert I had the mango ice cream, which is closer to a sorbet or something.  It's got a great mango flavor and a nice, firm texture.  There are, however, alternatives.  If you'd like to destroy your diet and increase your risk of heart failure, Cold Stone Creamery is in the same strip mall, as it a French pastry shop.  Both are very hard to resist.  Still, I resisted.  This time.

Mango Ice Cream
The best part about the Hot Pot Grill is that the owners are on premises.  If you have any trouble at all, Kiki and Tommy will see that your personal quality control issue is ameliorated forthwith.

Tommy, Owner and Chef
His wife tells me that Tommy is friendly, but I'm not so sure.  I waved at him twice and he barely looked up from his work.

Kiki, Owner - Manager and Hostess
I managed to get a photo of Kiki with a lot of cajoling and help from the other servers.  Kiki and the servers all do an excellent job.

I enjoyed my meal at the Hot Pot Grill and I'll be back again.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this place to my friends and family.

In summary:
  • Ambiance: 9
  • Service: 8
  • Food: 8
Overall Rating: 8


Old NFO said...

Did you get the egg on the bibimbap? And hot pots ARE good, especially if you're not in a hurry...

Mad Jack said...

In fact I did get the egg on the bibimbap. It was excellent.

Roland Hansen said...

Thank you very much for an extremely well-written and informative review. Maybe, I just might meet you here over lunch some day.