“Hot Pot” at E&Drink (Kearny Mesa)
So I went out with Lemon and another friend for a late night dinner. We have heard from people that there was this new Taiwanese restaurant opening in 99 Ranch market, opposite to Sam Woo Barbecue, at the corner where it was previously an Asian video store for a while. It finally opened about 2 weeks ago, and we have heard various comments on this restaurant. So of course so we wanted to try their food.
Originally from what we heard, it was going to be another Boba place. But to our surprise, they had some good food options on the menu. While we were waiting to be seated, we smelled the savory aroma of simmering mini hot pots. We were very hungry by that time, and were looking forward to getting into our seats.
I was 100% positive that the aroma came from the Thai flavor pot, so I went with it. In English, it said “Thai flavored”, but in Chinese it said “Thai Lemon grass”, and I’m a big fan of Lemon grass.
Our friend wanted to try the “Taiwanese Chicken” pot, which in Chinese read “Taiwanese Sesame Oil Chicken”. Our server told us that the Chicken pot is actually quite oily, and in Taiwan it was designed to serve new Moms the month after their confinement to help recuperate their body. LOL was our first reaction after our server explained to us, since our friend (a guy) was originally excited to try it. Anyways, we then decided on Japanese Miso pot.
Other than hot pot, they offer snacks that you can find in other boba place, and little dishes with brined food, which is one of the famous Taiwanese cuisines. We ordered a platter combo with pig ears (Yup, and they are delicious), beef shank and tofu. (Anyway, our focus today is on the “mini hot pot”, not the platter.)
Because it only opened recently, we saw that the owner walking around to make sure everything was okay, and was nervous about the performance of the employees. We could sense that most of the servers there were quite new and not very experienced. There were still room for improvement of their service. For example, they brought out 3 different platters, while we only ordeed one with the three combined.
Before the hot pots arrived, our server brought us a tray of sauce for us to choose from. Here are what we chose. From left to right: Top- DouBanJiang (made of beans, salt, rice and chili peppers; it is salty and spicy), and Garlic sauce; bottom- Shacha sauce (made of soy sauce, garlic, onion, dried shrimp; it is salty with a little chili taste), and Sesame paste.
Dipping Sauces play a significant role in Chinese/Taiwanese style hot pot, it adds refining flavors to the ingredients beside the flavor from the soup. The key elements add up to a yummy hot pot are a flavorful soup base, fresh ingredients, and the tasty dipping sauce.
This is the Japanese miso pot, and there were clams, cabbage, mushrooms, an egg, crab sticks, pork and some Kamaboko. It’s quite a small portion, which I think they mean to design this way for one pot per person. All the ingredients have actually been cooked, and I believe what they did was pour the flavored soup base into the pot, and add in the cooked ingredients. Technically, this does not really count as “hot pot”. “Hot pot” basically means having a big pot of simmering water or stock at the table, then fresh and raw ingredients are placed into the pot to be cooked, which is exactly what Little Sheep offers. If you would like to try more authentic Chinese style hot pot, I’d suggest going to Little Sheep. Moreover, different soup base and kinds of ingredients distinguish different parts of culture, areas and countries.
In this case, I was quite disappointed about the preparation of this “hot pot”. I didn’t expect the small restaurant could offer authentic hot pot (of course not). But I was expecting the flavors and quality of the ingredients. The ingredients were overcooked, that I can see some of the veggies had turned yellowish. The crab sticks were a little starchy, and I couldn’t taste any flavor from clams.
This is the “Thai Lemon grass” pot. It smelled really good, and I would say it was more the flavor of “Tom Yum” than “Lemon grass”. It has similar ingredients with the Miso pot, and there were shrimp in it. Although we told them to make it not spicy, I could still taste a little bit of the spice. It was the spices that make it smell great, but it did not taste as good as it smelled. There are various kind of spices in Chinese/Asian dishes, some are added to add aroma and color, some are added to give a twist to the flavors. I have questions about the amount of spices they put in the soup.
In the end, I would not say that it was the worst meal ever, but based on the taste, portion and experience of the restaurant, I may not come back here for hot pot… drinks maybe (since I haven’t tried their drinks yet, and I like the decor comparing to other Boba place on convoy). Well, I think we’ll wait and see, since it’s still kind of early to judge. Let me know of your experience!
E & Drink
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111