Hou Yi is a hot pot specialist restaurant located in the northeastern Fujian section of Chinatown that borders the Lower East Side.
Hot pot is a pot of broth which you cook raw ingredients in and then dip in various sauces. Surprisingly I’ve had a hard time finding a decent hot pot place in the city and usually go to Flushing to Baidu to get my fix, which you can see here. It’s surprising because it must be one of the most universally popular dishes amongst all types of Chinese people.
The restaurant is a small place that quite ugly even for Chinatown with bright orange walls, dim yellow lighting and ugly wooden tables. The service was fine and relatively efficient. Both times I’ve been there has been a wait, so I’d either go early or late. The price is $23 for all you can eat hot pot including drinks, so it’s very well priced.
I’ll break down the hot pot by different aspects:
We got regular and spicy broth. Both were pretty standard, but good. The light broth is a standard mild flavored broth and the spicy one is a Sichuan style ma la broth. The spicy one is very spicy and spicier than the broth I’ve had at most Sichuan restaurants in NY, so if you can’t handle spicy food I’d avoid it. 7.75/10
We got the beef and lamb. While they were frozen they seemed reasonably fresh to me. I liked the beef better than the lamb. My GF thought the beef wasn’t good quality, but I thought it was fine. The lamb was alright, but was a bit gamey (my GF did not like it at all, but she doesn’t like lamb in general). 7.5/10 for the beef, 7.25/10 for the lamb
They have a variety of standard non-meat sides of vegetables, dumplings, fish balls etc. We got fried tofu skin, fried tofu cubes, corn, tofu, enoki mushrooms, daikon, cabbage, Hong Kong style fish balls, Fujian style fish balls and some other stuff which I’m forgetting. I thought all of it was good except I thought the Hong Kong style fish balls were too processed tasting and the fried tofu cubes were mediocre as well. 7.75/10
They don’t have a lot of options for sauces, I used the sesame and sha cha sauce. The sha cha sauce was not provided on the tables and I had to ask them for it. Sha cha sauce is a dried shrimp sauce, which you can read more about here. Both sauces were pretty standard tasting, but reasonably decent. The major shortcoming of this place for me was the lack of variety of sauces. I normally like to make my own with soy sauce, chili oil, garlic, sesame oil and cilantro. I felt like it was missing an element without that. 7.5/10
Overall, while it’s not amazing hot pot, it’s pretty decent and extremely reasonably priced. If you’re looking for your hot pot fix in the city without going to Flushing this is a decent place.
112 Eldridge St (between Broome St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
Typically, I haven’t been the biggest hot pot fan, I generally like it, but I never crave it. However, for some reason recently I’ve really been craving it; maybe because it’s been so cold, I don’t know. I asked around and some people recommended Baidu Shabu Shabu in Flushing, so I met up with a friend and stopped in. Fyi, I don’t believe it says Baidu anywhere in English only in Chinese, it says Mapo Szechuan in front.
Baidu is surprisingly upscale for Flushing, its brand new looking, very clean and quite modern looking. Looks similar to some of the place you get hot pot in Taiwan. Its two levels with the bottom level having a full bar with a big TV and the upstairs having tables, some of which have TVs playing the Chinese channels (ours did).
The service was fine, not super attentive, but that’s generally how hot pot is anyhow since you’re serving yourself. There was about a 20 minute wait when we were there as the place is definitely pretty popular. My friend knows the owners (who weren’t there that day) and it’s actually the same family that owns the Ollie’s chain in Manhattan.
They have a full Sichuan menu and a full hot pot menu, but we only got the hot pot. I did see some Sichuan dishes on some people’s tables that looked pretty good, but most people seemed to be there for the hot pot.
Here’s what we got:
You have a variety of choices for broth and you can get the split pot where you get two different broths. My friend wanted to get the kimchi broth, getting the kimchi broth was against my better judgment (kimchi in a Chinese place), but I was so hungry that I just went with whatever my friend wanted. Although later I talked to another friend who eats there frequently and she told me that’s actually by far the worst broth and that we should have gotten the duck broth. The broth was alright, it had a kimchi flavor, but it was a bit weak in flavor. Honestly though after a little while we had diluted the broth so much by cooking stuff in it and asking for more broth that it had no kimchi flavor at all and I probably wouldn’t have noticed the broth no matter what flavor it was. 6.75/10
This was quite good, the beef was clean and fresh tasting unlike a lot of hot pot places I’ve been to in NY where you could tell the beef was old (gray spots, odd looking meat etc). We actually ended up getting two orders of it because we were so hungry and it was very good. Beef is always my favorite part of hot pot. 7.75/10
This was also good as well, clean and fresh tasting again. The meat was a little fattier, but it tasted great as well. 8/10
I was a little sketched out ordering the seafood platter because typically the seafood I’ve gotten at hot pot places in NY has been pretty bad quality, but again the seafood all tasted pretty fresh and it all came out pretty good when you cooked it. 7.5/10
This was good as well. All the mushrooms were fresh and tasted great when you cooked them. Also, I those seashell looking things are actually fishcakes that taste like Japanese kamaboko if you know what that is. We were confused as to why they were part of the mushroom platter, but they were good nonetheless. 7.5/10
The vegetables were very fresh and tasted great. 8/10
They have a sauce bar where you can make sauces and they also have a rice cooker there as well which is actually really convenient because you can just go get your own rice. I got ponzu sauce, sha cha sauce (a sauce made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, fish, and dried shrimp) and then I mixed a sort sauce of sesame oil, homemade soy sauce, chili oil, minced garlic and cilantro. All the sauces were good and I particularly liked the sauce I created. 8/10
Overall, I liked it a lot and I’d definitely come back. It was probably the best non-Sichuan hot pot I’ve had in NY. Highly recommend.
37-04 Prince Street
Queens, NY 11354
小肥羊 (Xiao Fei Yang / Little Sheep) is a famous chain of hot pot places and it is a massive chain (it’s a public company with hundreds of branches). I’m not the biggest fan of hot pot, while I think it’s good, I just don’t love it, so you’ll almost never find me choosing to go to a hot pot place and this was no different. I’ve been to this branch before; it’s very nice for a hot pot place and was jam packed (1 hour wait).
We got the half spicy and half non-spicy, the spicy broth was more spicy than I remember it being (some people at the table couldn’t really take it although I was fine with it). The ingredients were fresh and everything was fine, but there’s just not that much to it, it’s just hot pot and again I wasn’t wow’d by it (I’ve only been wow’d by hot pot once in Chengdu, China). 8/10
2/F, Causeway Bay Plaza 2, 463-483 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay
Phone: 2893 8318