Shabu Shabu Takes Center Stage at Zona Rosa’s Newest Eatery
When you think of Japanese food, the first style that comes to mind is probably not 'fondue.' And true enough, you won't find cheese or bread at Q Hot Pot, the newest addition to the Zona Rosa dining options. What you will find is a fun and tasty interactive dining experience focusing on fresh ingredients and customizable flavors known as shabu shabu.
To call hot pot 'fondue' is a simplifying the matter significantly. The basic idea is to cook thinly sliced meat, fish or vegetable options in a bubbling bath of broth, not oil or cheese as in many European versions. In a world where 'bone broth' is being sold as a cure all and the hipster drink of choice, Q Hot Pot should be highly successful. Their broth is made fresh every day. The broth, while it may be seen as only the cooking implement in some cases, can be a highly effective flavoring agent in this situation. Each pot comes with complimentary chicken broth and/or vegetarian broth but you may upgrade to different seasonings for a small upcharge. Options include Korean Kim Chi, Thai Tom Yum, Japanese miso, tomato veggie, Chinese spicy and pho beef.
After being seated at one of the tables featuring a tabletop induction burner, my husband and I perused the menu. We settled on a few different items: chicken lettuce wraps ($6.50), a Las Vegas roll ($15.75) and the Black Angus rib eye beef hot pot ($24.95). While I'm glad we got to try a few different things, really, the hot pot was plenty of food for the two of us to share.
The lettuce wraps were tasty but a bit awkward to eat. Instead of a flat leaf lettuce, they were served on curly, green leaf lettuce. While I appreciate having some flavor with the crunch, I ended up chasing my appetizer around my plate. The Las Vegas roll was also good but it arrived at roughly the same time as our hot pot so it sadly became a secondary concern. It was plated beautifully, but after the hot pot ingredients arrived, I could barely finish half of it.
Each hot pot comes with a plate of vegetables like enoki mushrooms, bok choy, corn, carrots and tofu, as well as your choice of a starch. From the options of udon noodles, cellophane noodles and rice, we chose cellophane noodles. Our plate of beef was impressive, with the portion sliced so thinly that once the broth reached the appropriate temperature, it cooked very quickly. We were also provided with the ingredients to make our own custom dipping sauce, with brown sugar, house made soy sauce, scallions and chili peppers.
After no more than five minutes, the broth came to temp and we were off to the races. I love interactive dining and this was no exception. The light and flavorful broth was healthy and the portion filling without being overwhelming. If you're looking for Cracker Barrel portion sizes, this isn't your place but why would you want that in this case? The beautiful thing about hot pot is the ephemeral nature of each bite, customized and as fresh as food will ever be going into your mouth.
Also included in the hot pot meal is dessert. On our visit, we were served a tiny glass bowl of a sweet green mung bean soup. It was a delicious and authentic way to end the meal.
There's a full bar available and we tried two of their cocktails, the kumquat mojito and the Hakka, a lychee drink. Both were definitely on the sweet side, but if sweet cocktails are to your liking, you will be happy. I would love to see a few savory or herbal options as well. A lemongrass martini, anyone? And Japanese whiskies are picking up speed…
In addition to the hot pot itself, owners Kieu (pronounced like the letter Q) Cao and Vinh Luong have created a great atmosphere, with pale blue walls, modern fixtures and a clean aesthetic. The service was clear and educational but could have been a little bit more personable. Add to the entire experience the sound of Andrew Zimmerman eating his way through Taiwan in the background and we really didn't feel like we were in Zona Rosa at all. It was, dare I say, hip.
Q Hot Pot is the first place in the KC metro area to offer this style of cooking and eating that I know of and I hope that they spark a trend. But before that, I hope that the people come flocking to this Northland jewel. They have a recipe for success and they are willing to share it with you!