Every Richmonder knows that hot pot is a way of life (especially for Asians) and thankfully there isn't a shortage of places to find all you can eat shabu shabu nearby. But with the abundance of AYCE restaurants though, it's hard to pick out the good and the bad so I thought I'd share some of my Richmonder inside knowledge/opinions with you all :)Sadly, I don't make it a habit to take pictures of hot pot since they really all do look the same- a big bowl of soup base with heaps of meat and veggie dishes everywhere; it's not pretty.
Probably the best place for younger crowds and lots of menu variety for an okay price. This place is big-group friendly and has two choices of menu- the regular one with just normal hot pot menu items (under $20) and the delux which includes "nicer" meat along with ayce sashimi orders...AND frozen pineapples (almost $30). That's what really sets this place apart from the rest for me: the large variety of food and the frozen goodness of those pineapples. Service is okay in comparison to the rest of the choices nearby and it's relatively clean. I haven't had too many issues after eating here +10 times.
Little Sheep Mongolian
This one is the massive hotpot restaurant in Lansdowne center; I've only been here once but I don't remember complaining too much despite having a group of 25+ people. This place is pretty massive so it's group friendly with big tables and lots of spare chairs. I think my favourite part about this place is its sauce bar, which adds a bit of true Chinese/Taiwanese hot pot authenticity to the meal. For those who don't know, hotpot places usually only provide soy sauce to go with your meat, but this place offers you a whole bar of sauces such as peanut sauce, sacha sauce, chilli sauce, and xo sauce. Service isn't terrible, the area is decently clean, and I'd consider this place to have "fresher" ingredients than the majority of similar restaurants.
I've been to their Kingsway/Metrotown location as well and I think they're a bit more unsanitary there than in Richmond. Also, the service is much slower from my experience.. maybe because the place is a lot bigger.
I've been here not once, but twice and I have no idea what induced me to go back that second time. Service is terribly slow and unresponsive while everything else on the table is just UNCLEAN. Spoons and chopsticks had old food residue on them. Even after "Asian-tea-washing" everything, I still felt more comfortable eating with my hands than with the utensils. The food was clearly not fresh at all. Vegetables tasted old and meat just didn't taste like good meat. The only thing they have going for them here is the xiao long baos.
Cattle Hot Pot Restaurant
I used to really like coming here as it was one of the first decent hot pot spots on Alexandra road. Despite being a tiny restaurant, food was good (especially their snow beef) and greens were leafy. Service was okay, I mean it's "Hong Kong style hospitality".. This was all until my first incident happened when I found a fly on my plate of raw meat. Okay that's gross. Everyone else thought it was gross. After some unimpressed comments and 15 minutes, everything was replaced. All good right? Well no because the next time I went, I found a whole caterpillar sitting on my leafy greens. The waitress said that meant the vegetables were fresh. She said a caterpillar served in my vegetables meant that their food was fresh. Let's take a minute for that to settle in. I know some things are out of their control, and I'd be understanding if they just said sorry and replaced my vegetables BUT THIS WAITRESS JUST WALKED AWAY AFTER SAYING THAT. So no. I asked to talk to the manager and to my surprise, the situation didn't get any better. That was probably the only time in my life where I didn't leave a single cent for a tip. I've been here at least 15 times since it's opened and I'm not so sad to say that I won't be going back. If you're going to go here for some strange reason, check your vegetables, check your meat, and I hope you don't mind difficult service.
Chubby Lamb Hot Pot
I'm happy to say that this is one of the hot pot places that I look more favorably upon. So far I've been here 5 times (?) since it's changed it's name. This place is actually called 河豚火鍋 instead of 小肥羊, so don't get confused! This place is maybe double the size of it's neighbour, Cattle Hot Pot but still fills up easily so again, make sure you either book ahead of time or bring in smaller groups.. or both. Food is pretty fresh and they even have all-you-can-drink-pop for $1 - pretty good deal if you ask me. If I remember correctly, the average price per person is about $18 which is pretty good considering the variety of items they have on the menu. My absolute favourite is the Chinese pancake (which I forget to take a picture of EVERY time) served with either sugar or their chili sauce. Service here is friendly but a bit slow at times.
Well these are the places I can think of off the top of my head for now. I'll add more as I remember/explore more. After reading this post, you must be thinking "wow, this girl eats hot pot a lot". Yes, yes I do. Hot pot is an integral part of Chinese culture haha :)