Level 1, 202 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9663 1268
A few months ago, @eatnik’s pal @submelb gave us the scoop on a new hotpot joint. He was rather excited by it – to be fair, he’s a pretty excitable fellow, so that’s not necessarily saying much – and even though we’d all just eaten, implored that we all go and check it out. We wandered in, had a bit of a peer around, and resisted @submelb’s insistence that we had to check out the toilets, as they were ‘the best!’.
To be honest, Flavour Town is a pretty impressive affair, as far as hotpot joints go. Decked out with comfortable booth seating, or round tables for larger groups, partially screened by beaded curtains, of the luxe rather than the tacky kind; think of opium dens, but shiny. The other neat-o thing at Flavour Town is – if you get in early, or you book – there is the option for individual soup pots. This takes away some of the communal eating experience I think, but it’s handy if someone’s got a cold, or if you’re a bit short-limbed and have trouble reaching the communal pot in the middle. Both times I went, alas, all the individual soup pot tables were full.
You can mix and match your soup bases – there’s chicken, pork bone and spicy. We went for the latter two, both times. For those of you who haven’t been to hotpot before, you order a whole lot of raw ingredients, and then proceed to cook them yourself at the table by dunking them in the boiling soup. It’s a lot of fun, but if you’ve got kids, you may need to exercise some supervision.
The first time I went was with @thatjessho. We ordered a whole bunch of stuff – far too much for the two of us – so I’m only going to go through the highlights, ie. the things I would recommend. Above, the chrysanthemum leaves (tong o) which are, in my opinion, the best vegetable for hot pot. They have a very distinctive chlorophyll-y flavour, and work well in any soup. Next to that was the pig’s blood jelly. This stuff is already cooked, to some extent, but it actually gets better the longer you leave it in. As do the potato slices (below, left). The potato soaks up all of the flavours which the other ingredients have imparted into the soup, so drop the potato in early, and let it sit there until much later. You’ll be glad you did.
You’ll also be glad you ordered the ‘egg fish balls’, which are fish balls filled with a salty yellow fish roe. The texture and the vaguely salty-sweet flavour of the roe were an interesting surprise.
Oh look, chicken hearts. YES! The dried bean curd skin on the right? Meh, it’s something of a filler for me. Jess was into it though.
Being offal-coveting Asians, we of course ordered both kinds of tripe. Bryan would call them the reticulum (top) and the omasum (bottom), but I like to call them the Honeycomb and the Carwash.
Here’s some time lapse action of how our soup pot progressed throughout the meal.
It got a little manky towards the end, and that’s even without us ordering any thin-sliced fatty beef or lamb!
The next time I returned was pretty much the same affair, only with less offal and more flesh. So I didn’t bother to take photos.
Oh, and last time I was there, Flavour Town was – lamentably – without a liquor licence.