I arrived just a little late, so missed some of the briefing about how things worked but given I generally eat everything, I was always going to be relaxed about what appeared.We sampled just about everything on the menu. This included edible fungus, tripe, luncheon meat, fish balls, prawns, crab, pak choi, noodles, tofu, mushrooms and a bunch of other stuff. When the platter of these raw items arrived it looked hugely impressive.
Broth hotpots were then brought and kept bubbling on the table’s integrated hobs. Our pot had both a clear and a chicken broth although the difference between the two was not particularly discernible.
An important step in the process was the creation of a dipping sauce from the nearby table of various pastes and spices. This reinforced the already palpable similarity between this place and Khublai Khan, where the set-up is somewhat similar. As with that, the food at Xiangbala seemed likely to be secondary to the experience.
We began flinging things in the hotpot with reckless abandon. The prawns were the standout item, although we contrived to overcook most of them. Everything else was pretty much of a middling range of different textures, with flavours indistinct. I’d done a reasonable job with a spicy, nutty dipping sauce, but it couldn’t mask that most of what we had was fairly ordinary fare.
Given that we were doing the cooking, of course we were the authors of our own misfortune. I suspect that without Caz, who was well-acquainted with this style of restaurant, we might have struggled even further, so I’d recommend you go with someone who knows what they’re doing and is willing to take charge.
I was reminded of another Yelp dinner, a couple of years ago, where we visited Ong Gie, the Korean barbecue place, and had a very similar time.
So overall, Xiangbala Hotpot represents a good, cheap option (although pretty much all the Edinburgh hotpot places are priced similarly) as for only £15.99 you get unlimited ingredients and broth to play with for two hours. You can, and we did, do a fair amount of damage during that time, and the experience is very much what you make it. We waddled off down the road with full bellies, but I couldn’t say the food was entirely satisfying.
Today’s questers were: Caz, Claire, Jody, Lili, Maggie, Rachael, Blythe
We ate: HOTPOT STUFF
We wore: Santa’s Little Yelper outfits
Total bill: £15.99 per person