Edmonton Restaurant Review: 97 Hot Pot

Boiling our pots of soup at 97 Hot Pot.

Boiling our pots of soup at 97 Hot Pot.

As a Chinese girl who was born and raised in Edmonton by my parents, far away from the rest of our immediate family, we would eat Chinese food when I was growing up, but I much preferred things like pizza, pasta and the like over traditional Asian fare. I’d happily go to Chinatown to eat sweets like pineapple buns, and, of course, to shop for all things Sailormoon. That was pretty much the extent of it.

It has always been that way for me. If I ever had the option to have anything other than Chinese food, I’d take it. Yet, that mentality has changed over the years. By all accounts, Chinese cuisine still isn’t my favourite; however, I do love a good Peking duck, or freshly made shumai and cocktail buns at what I like to call “Asian brunch” as we usually partake in dim sum late in the morning and on the weekend.

So, now that I’m older and more willing to try everything, when my parents suggested going for a hot pot lunch on a chilly December day, I thought I had better give it a go. I really should refrain from being picky nowadays.

Raw chicken and pork slices, bean curd, dumplings and sauce.

Raw chicken and pork slices, bean curd, dumplings and sauce.

Years since I had had that type of meal – essentially you get boiling hot soup and you cook raw veggies and meat at the table yourself (it actually sounds a lot like The Melting Pot from what I’ve been told) – I figured it was time to open myself up to my heritage. After all, hot pot is the Chinese equivalent of bringing family together.

We ended up at 97 Hot Pot, a somewhat newer establishment in the heart of Chinatown. The location used to be home to a small grocery store, but has been renovated into a spacious, bright and clean restaurant. Tables have individual hot pot plates built into them, so each diner can pick a soup base of their choice. The temperature settings of the heating plates can be changed (on a scale from 1 to 3), allowing patrons to adjust them as needed.

The interior of 97 Hot Pot.

The interior of 97 Hot Pot.

They offer an all-you-can-eat option at 97 Hot Pot, but the lunch menu is more than enough for each person. At around $13 each, there’s plenty of food to ensure you don’t leave hungry. Using the paper menus, we checked off what we wanted, which includes one type of broth along with five entree items. All of us selected different things, but I went with the Szechuan Spicy Chicken soup, sliced sirloin beef, pork wontons, pork & vegetable dumplings, beef balls and vermicelli noodles. Another bowl of fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, corn on the cob, enoki mushrooms, white button mushrooms and broccoli is provided as part of the price.

First off, let me say that the Szechuan Spicy Chicken soup is SPICY! I love food with a good amount of heat, but, for me, this was more than I expected. On the one hand, I didn’t have to use any additional sauces to flavour my soup and food. On the other, it was spicy enough to take away some of my ability to taste anything else. This soup is made with a number of ingredients, many of which I couldn’t quite pick out, but can be seen in the pot. One flavour in particular was hard for me to pinpoint, but I’m sure it came from some sort of re-hydrated veggie or bean, which is often used in Asian soup bases, and not one I’m that fond of. Nevertheless, it was still yummy, and, if you have a penchant for extremely spicy food, this might be for you.

I liked that they didn’t skimp on the extra bowl of vegetables because it could be a meal in itself. Regardless, I’m glad to have the additional entree items. The sirloin beef slices were fresh, the beef balls had a nice spring to them once cooked, the dumplings were plump and juicy, and the vermicelli, which soaked up just the right amount of flavour from the soup, helped to fill my belly. The only misstep of my meal was the tiny wontons. Although several were provided and they were tasty, they were much smaller than regular wontons that are to be had anywhere else. Also, if I had a do over of my lunch, I would maybe have gone with the rice noodles instead. Thick, clear and kind of gelatin looking, I sampled one from my mom’s plate, and they were delicious.

My mom's selection of rice noodles, sliced sirloin beef, shrimp, squid and fish.

My mom’s selection of rice noodles, sliced sirloin beef, shrimp, squid and fish.

With regards to the service, it was busy that day and they don’t have many people on staff, so I would say that they could improve in that aspect. Both my mom and I still had some food to cook, but our soup had boiled down until there was very little left in the pot and you could smell a bit of the food burning. We had to wave a staff member down to get them to add water to our pots before we could continue with our meal.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the food and the outing. It’s a fun, communal type of meal that is as traditional Chinese as one can get.

#26ActsofKindness and Beyond

On Dec. 14, a tragedy took place in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. A shooter, for reasons unknown, decided to take the life of his mother and then the lives of twenty children and six of their teachers in a rampage that is too hard to fathom. In honour and remembrance of those lost too soon, Ann Curry from NBC News took to twitter on Dec. 16 to ask if others would commit to twenty acts of kindness, one for every child taken. That snowballed into 26 (#26Acts or #26ActsofKindness), 27 and even 28 from those who wanted to take part.

This request came at a time of year when people are often feeling generous, loving and kind towards one another, usually more so than the rest of the year. And, though this holiday season is coming near an end for another year, the goodwill that is so abundant doesn’t need to stop.

I don’t believe what Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) came up with is anything new, but, regardless, the point of her idea is to spread joy in this world rather than hate or hurt, and I think that this is important for all of humanity to adhere to. If each of us can bring just an iota of happiness to one person, maybe that would be the key to preventing such horrible occurrences in the future. This can be a better world if we take the steps to make it so.

In an effort to get you started on your acts of kindness (random or not), which I hope will continue past twenty six, here are a number of small and big things that you can do.

1) Hold the door open for someone.

A simple gesture that is usually appreciated.

2) Donate toys and clothes that are no longer being used to a shelter.

3) Donate non-perishable food items to the food bank.

4) Babysit your friend’s kids, so he/she can have a night off.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

5) All too often, what others do goes unnoticed. Recognize and acknowledge someone else’s hard work.

6) Donate a bus ride. Edmonton Transit System has a program. Maybe your city does as well.

7) Bake cookies for your co-workers.

My favourite kind of cookies!

My favourite kind of cookies!

8) If you have long hair, consider donating some of it towards wigs for cancer patients.

9) Smile and say good morning to a stranger, co-worker or friend.

10) Help carry someone’s bags.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

11) Truly listen to people when they’re talking to you. You never know what you’ll learn or how you might be able to help if you don’t take the time to absorb what they’re saying.

12) When a co-worker is swamped with work and you’re not, offer to help them out.

13) #FF (Follow Friday) your Twitter friends.

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don't hog them to yourself. Share with others!

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don’t hog them to yourself. Share with others! But, make sure to give reasons why they should do so.

14) Clear away shopping carts that are blocking parking spots.

15) Surprise a friend by paying for their lunch, too.

16) Buy coffee for the next person in line.

They'll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

They’ll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

17) Volunteer at a non-profit agency.

18) Help your parents by picking up their groceries, cleaning their house, doing their yard, etc. Whatever they need and you’re able to do, even if it’s small, will be appreciated.

19) If you’re buying a cart full of groceries and the person behind you only has a few items, let them go first. They’ll be thankful they don’t have to wait so long and it will only keep you for a few more minutes.

Shopping cart

Those with a few items will appreciate your willingness to let them butt in front of you.

20) If you’re done with you shopping cart at the grocery store and someone else needs one, let them have it and your quarter.

21) If a friend is moving, offer to help them pack up their stuff or transport their things.

22) Drop off a care package and some homemade chicken noodle soup for a friend who’s feeling under the weather.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

23) Support local artists by buying, viewing or listening to their work.

24) Give away a gift card you received to someone who needs it more.

25) Sometimes we take people for granted. Thank someone if they do something for you.

We often don't say this enough.

We often don’t say this enough.

26) Leave positive notes in random places for people to find.

27) Donate a party dress for upcoming graduates who may not be able to afford something on their own. There are various projects in many cities. Google to find one near you.

28) Adopt a pet from the local animal shelter.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

29) Be a snow angel and shovel a neighbours walkway and driveway or clear off their car.

30) Donate blood.

31) Tell someone special how much you care about them.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don't leave it until it's too late.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

32) On the road, let someone merge into your lane if they need to.

33) Help someone bag their groceries at self-checkout.

34) Hug a friend.

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

35) Set aside $1 a day for a year and once you’ve collected the $365 donate it to the charity or agency of your choice.

36) Send a care package to a friend or family member who is far away from home.

37) Light candles in honour of those who have passed.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

38) If your parking ticket hasn’t expired, pass it onto someone who can still use it.

39) Be a mentor.

40) Help someone wrap gifts, decorate for a party or bake a birthday cake. Or bake a cake for your best friend just because.

I love coconut anything.

I love coconut anything.

41) Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we worry so much about others that we forget to take care of ourselves.

This list is by no means comprehensive. However, I included whatever I was able to think of over the last few days. I tried to come up with a variety of things – some might require a bit of money, but most can be done without. It’s all about the gestures and paying it forward.

If you have other ideas to add, please share them in the comments section below.

Peace and Love,

Crystal