Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Regal Bakery introduces hot pot at Chinatown Cultural Plaza

Nadine Kam photos
The Super Deluxe Combo features won bok, mustard cabbage, zucchini, fish balls, enoki and shimeji mushrooms, tofu, clams, shrimp, meatballs, ribeye, chicken and look funn. The cost is $28.95 for this “small” order for two, and $44.95 for large.

Hot pot restaurants abound in Honolulu, but beyond a brief trial at the top of Smith Street, which didn’t work out, the hot pot hasn’t established roots in Chinatown.

Regal Bakery Downtown, in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, is now giving it a try. The hot pot was introduced to help drive traffic in the evening, a time when the business district empties out. It’s also available during the day, although due to the often busy lunch traffic, I find that they don’t yet have adequate manpower to address sit-down customers. To date, some patience is required from patrons.

Some selling points include the restaurant’s MSG-free broths, including a light jook, and a roster of ingredients that include such local, homespun options as lup cheong, Spam, Vienna sausage and Chinese-style orange beef balls that are not widely available at other hot pot restaurants.

The Chinatown Cultural Plaza is at 100 N. Beretania St., and Regal Bakery faces the street. Call (808) 540-1000.

Here’s a little of what you can expect:

Choose from seven MSG-free soups. Pictured on one side is the milky white Healthy Soup with soy broth accented with goji berries, dragon eye fruit, Chinese yam and tangerine peel. On the other is the powerful Hot Spicy soup that will be a joy to fire eaters among us, in all its cough and runny nose-inducing glory. On this visit, we were given garlic butter and soy sauce with green onions that we mixed together as one sauce. Depending on your waiter, you may get something else. For instance, on a followup visit, I was offered a choice of four sauces. Like I said, it’s a work in progress.

The Meat Lover’s Combo features a mix of prime rib, chicken and beef balls, with assorted vegetables, tofu and look funn. This is the small order, $18.95, which easily serves two. A large order is $34.95.

There are many, many supplemental offerings ranging from local-out Spam and lup cheong to beef tendon, tripe, cow tongue and rib eye. Pictured here are frozen shrimp wontons and lamb. Meat cuts are thicker than most places.

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