Boiling Point (Irvine) - Interrupt

>> Sunday, March 18, 2012

Date of Dining: 2/18/2012
Price: ~$12 per hot pot
Location: 14140 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92606

The Quick Bit:
+ good selection of flavored hot pot dishes
+ menu includes Taiwanese delicacy stinky tofu
Δ difference in wait times for parties larger than two could be less pronounced
Δ extra protein option could be offered on the menu for additional charge
Δ service could be more attentive

"Hot Pot" is one of the most ubiquitous dishes in Chinese cuisine. It is a dish that can be likened to fondue traditionally where a single pot sits in the middle of the table for the entire family and ingredients are added to the pot to be cooked. Oftentimes, hot pot is enjoyed during holidays when the family gets together and is an opportunity for socializing among family. It is also a dish that is served during times of celebration.
There are many different varieties of hot pot depending on the region of China where the hot pot is prevalent. In the South, spicy hot pots are popular because they cause the body to sweat, this making the person feeling cool. Somewhat paradoxically, spicy hot pots are also popular in the north as the heat is necessary to make the body warm up to combat the frigid temperatures.
Boiling Point is a Taiwanese-owned chain of restaurants serving personal-sized portions of Taiwanese hot pot. While I'm not exactly sure what exactly makes hot pot Taiwanese, the following characteristics are what I associate with it. First, the soup of the hot pot incredibly flavorful on its own. Next, Taiwanese hot pot are typically accompanied with a variety of dipping sauces to dip the contents of the pot. Finally, the hot pot served at Boiling Point includes stinky tofu, which is considered a Taiwanese delicacy.

hokkaido milk tea
I apologize for the poor quality photo, but fortunately there didn't seem to be much to see.
While Taiwanese drink shops have popularized boba and milk tea, Boiling Point carries on the tradition by offering Hokkaido milk tea. I'm not exactly sure why it is called Hokkaido milk tea, but the flavor of the milk was much more concentrated, which made me enjoy the tea more. Coupled with the spicy hot pot, it was a perfect combination.

garlic soy sauce
chili oil
"boiling point" sauce
Situated at each table is a vessel containing three different sauces. The idea is that one should be able to use different amounts of the three sauces to customize his or her own favorite dipping sauce. The "boiling point" sauce serves as the base and is a nice mix of spicy, sour, sweet, and umami. It seems to consist mainly of spicy garlic bean paste, garlic cream soy sauce, and an additional secret spicy sauce. I enjoyed the sauce immensely and would probably be willing to spread it on bread to eat, except that it is a bit too salty for that.
The chili oil and soy allow for slight adjustments to one's dipping sauce.

When one orders hot pot, they are presented a choice of rice or noodles. The noodles are to be added to the hot pot, while the rice serves more for ladling soup on top of the rice. I found that in a party of two, ordering one of each and sharing seemed to be the best approach.
spicy fermented tofu
Seeing it as a delicacy, I ordered the spicy fermented tofu as a side. Unfortunately, this was probably among the worst stinky tofu I'd ever consumed. This preparation pretty much brought to light all the reasons people have bad feelings about stinky tofu and confirmed that they can be true in a poor preparation.

Hot Pots:
beef hot pot
The beef soup contains beef, tomato, fish balls, tofu, vegetables, and a variety of other ingredients. The soup was incredibly flavorful and the mix of ingredients made the soup a joy to eat.
lamb hot soup
The lamb hot soup contains lamb, tofu, pork blood, fish cakes, vegetables, and tenpura. While this is outwardly similar to the beef soups substituting beef for lamb, the actual flavor of the broth was very different. Whereas the beef brother is very savory, the lamb broth contains some additional sweetness which reminds me of some Chinese herbal ingredients in soups.

The hot pots of boiling point are incredibly flavorful, and contain a wide array of different ingredients making them a treat to enjoy. The dipping sauces really heighten the flavors and add an extra dimension of flavor as well.
While the food is great, there are some issues to be aware of. First the pots are incredibly hot as they are being heated and boiled while in front of you. Next, the service is pretty typical of an Asian restaurant, which is to say you will have to ask for things several times. Finally, most carnivores will feel that the hot pot does not contain enough meat.
Despite the downsides, Boiling Point remains high on my list of destinations to enjoy a meal while passing through Irvine. The incredible flavor and variety of ingredients in the soup more than make up for the scarcity of protein. Also, it is always an option to just order more meat or another hot pot if one is unsatisfied. The Hokkaido milk tea is also a nice bonus.
Due to the flavors and the price for the experience, Boiling Point gets the bit award.


Kirbie March 19, 2012 at 11:43 AM  

Did you get the stinky tofu that is in the actual hot pot? Or does that require a specific broth I can't remember. That one has a little more flavor. Though still not as much as I would have liked.

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