For those of you who have gone your whole lives without eating hot pot, you are seriously missing out! Hot pot is a Chinese soup/broth cooked live on a little stove in front of you and filled with a variety of vegetables, meat, and dumplings, noodles, seafood, and other Asian tidbits like fish balls. It's typically eaten with dipping sauce to add to the flavor. Most Asian families (including mine) make hot pot a huge event where family members gather around one giant pot in the middle of the table and take turns putting different ingredients into the pot. Nowadays there are fancy hot pot restaurants where individuals get their own pot (for apparent sanitary reasons). I recently tried a hot pot buffet (unlimited ingredients) at Spring Shabu in Flushing, Queens. Although I've eaten at the two popular Manhattan hot pot buffets- 99 Favor and Hometown Hot Pot- I really wanted to try something different and cut down on my wait time. Usually the wait at Manhattan hot pot restaurants is over 2 hours due to the popularity and value of these places.
At both of the hot pot buffets I had previously eaten at, customers usually still order off a menu and dishes are brought out one by one by a waiter. In other words, its not a typically buffet where you get up and get your own food from serving lines. These restaurants do this to limit waste and uneaten food. However, Spring Shabu allows its customers to get their own food and provides 5 rows filled with hot pot ingredients. There is seriously something so gratifying about seeing rows and rows of food right in front of you- all for the taking. It was completely overwhelming! Even the sauce bar was on a different level. As you'll see below, there were 4 rows of different sauces. I saw some of my favorites- hoisen, sesame, chili oil, peanut sauce, as well as some sauces that I had never seen at a hot pot buffet before- honey mustard, scallion paste. For $17, you can eat until your stomach is filled to the brim. Even There's even unlimited green tea and vanilla soft serve ready for dessert!
The main difference with Spring Shabu is that meat and seafood is not included in the buffet price of $17. It is ordered separately at an additional price, which is probably why the overall cost is much lower than Manhattan hot pot buffets that usually charge around $23. We ordered 1 plate of beef for $4 because what is hot pot without any meat! Our original plan was to order more if needed, but we were so excited on seeing the giant buffet of food that we ended up getting full and not needing anymore meat.
Even though I feel like Flushing has more legitimate Chinese food, I'm always hesitant to make the trek out there just because the train ride is SO long and I hate having to switch trains in the middle. But Spring Shabu has changed my mind! The quality and quantity (they've proved its possible to have both!) of the buffet at Spring is something that I definitely can't get anywhere in the city. Its a buffet that's truly on a different level.