Tang Hot Pot Redefines Group Dinner

November 27 2017 | By Chris Crowley for Grubstreet
Get Ready For High-end Hot Pot With Dungeness Crab and Wagyu Beef

(Photo by Liz Clayman, Sichuan Spicy Beef Tallow Broth and Rich Pork Bone Broth with goji, jujube, ginger, and green onion)

In New York, hot-pot restaurants dot New York’s Chinatowns from Flushing to Sunset Park — but they tend to be all-you-can-eat or budget-minded. This is good for the wallet, but it can also mean underwhelming broths and less-than-ideal restaurant experiences. In China, on the other hand, hot pot is big business. It’s the country’s most popular way to eat out, according to one report, and there are options for a range of budgets.

(One chain, Haidilao, even offers massages and manicures for waiting customers.) For Yu Li, one of the owners behind East Village noodle shop the Tang, New York’s hot-pot scene was missing a more genuine taste of Chengdu, which is why Li decided to open his own place, Tang Hotpot — which soft-opens tonight on the Bowery — where he’ll offer a more upscale (but not toopricey) take on the idea.

“The flavor and ingredients over [in Chengdu] have never been seen in New York,” Li explains, before throwing down the gauntlet. “I don’t see any good, authentic hot pot in New York right now.” To help upgrade his ingredients and broth, Li has hired chef Yan Zhang, who previously worked at the 150-year-old Beijing roast-duck chain Quanjude Duck and Canadian hot-pot chain Morals Village. He’s created five different soups to choose from, including pumpkin seafood made with clams and crab meat that will debut in a few weeks. But the version Li is most excited about is the Sichuan Spicy Broth, made with a heavy dose of beef tallow. (“When you mix it with the spice and really cook it, that flavor is really there — and it’s going to taste more flavorful and spicier after boiling for 20 minutes.”) They won’t skimp on spices or herbs, and Li says you’ll be able to taste the difference, especially with the more absorbent ingredients like tofu.

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