Take a look around Boiling Avenue, a hot pot restaurant located off of busy Howe Avenue, and you’ll see steamy windows, patrons’ glasses fogging up and a giant metal sign that reads, “Eat.” Though the Sacramento restaurant’s slogan is “mini fusion hot pot” the portions are anything but small, and each meal is like a simmering bowl of discoveries.
Typically a hot pot sits at the center of the dining table, surrounded by small plates that are filled with different ingredients for your stew. But at Boiling Avenue, you get to have a boiling pot all to yourself.
The menu is heavily loaded with various options that will make the picky eaters and vegetarians happy. First, you will need to decide your level of spice—depending upon how much you want to clear your sinuses you might want to start off with mild. At first, the menu might seem a little bit daunting just because each pot, such as the Korean kimchi or the sesame tonkotsu, can include well over a dozen ingredients. And if what is offered on the menu isn’t stuffed with enough options for your meal, you can add or substitute (only three per pot) 34 other delicious items such as sliced pork belly, stuffed fishball, quail eggs and even Spam.
Even the drink menu can take a while to read through. It’s easy to become awesomely overwhelmed with multiple tea flavors such as brown sugar milk and jasmine milk. Boiling Avenue offers the option to add your own boba or jelly. You can even choose how sweet you want your tea, ranging from 30 to 100 percent sweetness levels.
My picks for the evening were cucumber salad, pot stickers, the No. 8 curry flavor and kumquat lemon green tea. The cucumber salad was served in Mason jars and featured giant slices of cucumber that were surrounded by carrots, onions and cilantro. The pot stickers came served in a mini deep fryer basket, and they were slightly crispy on the outside with warm fillings on the inside. The kumquat lemon green tea was refreshing, with a tart aftertaste and a slight pulp texture.
The curry flavor is served with sliced pork belly, stuffed fish ball, fish tofu cake, imitation crab sticks, konnyaku, cabbage, corn, tofu, enoki mushroom, king oyster mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, Korean rice cake, udon, green onion and cilantro. I decided to substitute the king oyster mushrooms with an egg. As a hot pot newbie, there were a few things on the menu that I’ve never heard of before, but that was the fun part—finding little surprises in my bubbling meal.
The hot pot was served on top of my very own mini square cooker. Upon arrival, it almost seemed too beautiful to eat, the fresh ingredients were all perfectly arranged in the steaming vessel with an array of colors from the yellow corn to the red, thin slices of pork to orange carrot wedges, all topped with green onion and cilantro. The pots were so stuffed with food, the broth seemed to be on the brink of overflowing. As I admired the work of art, the server lit the mini cooker for me and informed our table that our meals were only 80 percent cooked and we needed to wait about 10 minutes before eating. Even though my stomach grew wide after seeing the pretty strew placed in front of me, it was exciting to watch the broth simmer and slowly bubble more and more while filling my nose with fresh curry spices.
After patiently waiting for the stew to cook, I grabbed the chopsticks and started to dig in.
As I ventured into the boiling abyss, I found some pieces of food that I forgot were included inside, like the chewy Korean rice cakes and the crab stick. It was like a bowl of discoveries waiting to be eaten. Eventually, my chopsticks happened upon some potatoes that were soaking for a while on the bottom; they broke apart like steamy curry mashed potatoes. It’s rare to find a meal that gets better the longer it sits.
And if you magically aren’t full enough from the first round, you can request to get a refill of broth at no extra cost. Each fusion hot pot ranges from $12–$16, with almost the guarantee of leftovers.
Boiling Avenue offers a meal that is more of an experience, where you can discover the curry soaked potatoes and the mushrooms you forgot on the bottom of your bowl. It forces dinner time to slow down a little and makes you appreciate your surrounding company and warm food. When you are finished with your food art, take a look above you and you can read food inspired quotes. To sum up the boiling experience, one of my favorite quotes read, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Boiling Avenue is located at 943 Howe Ave. in Sacramento. For more info and to peruse their menu, go to Facebook.com/boilingave.