Today I cover another restaurant that doesn’t need more press, because the Chubby Cattle restaurant is already, to quote Mugatu, “so hot right now.” Chubby Cattle is a Chinese hot pot restaurant with a conveyor belt. Because I am not from China or Mongolia, I am not in a position to tell you whether this is a traditional set up or if this is new-fangled. I guess it doesn’t matter.
If you have had the Japanese version of hot pot (Shabu-shabu), and I’ve written about it here, you know the general idea. One thing to remember with any hot pot establishment is that you cannot get creative with the seating, since you need to make sure that every seat has its own cooking spot.
This is mine. I got the hellishly spicy one (their words, not mine, it was not all that spicy, but it was zesty). What you are seeing here is the table has a recessed heating element that the pot of broth covers. There are buttons and switches by your crotch (nobody explains how they work, you just start hitting things and hoping you get lucky) that control the temperature. When the broth is boiling, it’s time to cook.
What to cook? There are two (maybe three) options. You can order from the menu – vegetables, meats, noodles, the whole nine yards. You can also grab your food as it passes by you on a conveyor belt, or you can do both.
Ever since Notting Hill I’ve wanted to eat food off of a conveyor belt. Most of the dishes on the conveyor belt are labeled (something that looked like chocolate was labeled “beef blood”). Some are not. Some are vaguely labeled (I selected one that was called “live fish”, they fish did not look alive and it did not say what kind of fish they were- they were good though). They are color-coded by price.
They have a sauce bar where you can round up all the sauces you want for your food.
I used a ton of the Chef’s Special Chili Sauce and the whole table really liked the peanut butter sauce.
This was Amy’s broth. It was the standard one. Our waiter said that you can eat the vegetables (that is a chunk of corn on the cob there). He also said that a lot of the things floating in the broth are not to be eaten – they are “Chinese medicine.”
Like with shabu shabu, the meats are sliced super thin while frozen. The complexity of the broths (or my broth, at least) makes it a little bit harder to taste the quality of the meat, but the marbling looked pretty good.
I don’t often have comments about the service, but I do for Chubby Cattle. Our waiter seemed to be a person definitely from the Pacific Rim (not a local). He was friendly, PATIENT and funny. We really enjoyed him. In fact, we liked him so much, that I think we didn’t worry about the fact that sometimes things took too long to arrive.
Another practical note – this is a fun, engaging way to dine. It can be very communal (you can share the items you are cooking) without feeling like you are eating off someone else’s plate. We learned over the course of the meal that there are a lot of ways to eat this food. You can cook it in the broth and eat it with sauce, you can use the broth to make a little soup, you can use the broth to enrich the sauces, it goes on and on. In the end, we weren’t sure if the way we ate our food at all resembled the way a real native would. I guess my advice is don’t worry too much about whether you are “doing it right”, rather, just enjoy the experimentation.
With Chubby Cattle, the hype is justified. It is a lot of fun, reasonably priced and a great place for a group to eat together. It is quite busy, and I recommend getting reservations. I love meals that are more than just food, and Chubby Cattle is food with an experience.