The season’s chill brings a craving for roiling cauldrons of hot pot. The pan-Asian dish, a central and usually communal vessel of bubbling broth in which all manner of meats and vegetables are quickly cooked, is essential to Orange County’s cool-weather diet.
Typically, hot pot is a shared experience—family members helping one another untangle nests of noodles, couples crossing chopsticks in search of that last piece of bok choy. But at Boiling Point, it’s an individual affair. Here, every diner orders his or her own hot pot. There’s the Japanese-style miso, the Korean-style kimchi, or the Thai-style meant to recall tom yum soup. The restaurant is a Taiwanese joint at heart, however, so consider the classic beef hot pot: vermicelli noodles, enoki mushrooms, tomato, tofu, fried tofu skin, corn, a lump of imitation crab, and ultrathin slices of beef.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is all about customization. The sleek Chinese chain offers only two broths—the cloudy, almost herbal original, and the excellent, chile-studded spicy broth—but customers can add a seemingly infinite array of options to either one. There’s fatty lamb shoulder sliced as thin as tissue paper, shrimp stripped of their cumbersome shells, wedges of kabocha squash, freshly made noodles, and more ingredients than we can list. With a crowd? Order six or so mix-ins and you easily can feed four to a pot.
California Shabu Shabu keeps it simple. The Japanese variant, shabu shabu is noticeably subtler and more restrained—the dashi-style broth contains only a single length of seaweed swirling in its depths. But soon you’ll add wonderfully fatty Wagyu beef (sliced fresh right before your eyes) or slabs of salmon, and virtually all of the supplied vegetable choices, such as cabbage leaves and hunks of carrot. Every seat is outfitted with its own burner and hot pot, but that shouldn’t stop you from sharing.
WORN OUT from all that stirring and slurping? Reward yourself at Boiling Point with a supersized macaron ice cream sandwich. Classic vanilla ice cream is stuffed between lavender macarons, but it’s hard to resist the strawberry ice cream packed inside a pair of vibrant green-tea macarons.
California Shabu Shabu
18908 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
801 Baker St., Costa Mesa