Introducing The Pot’s Restaurant
Living in San Francisco has countless perks. One perk, that some consider a curse, is that the weather is “almost always” cool or cold. Our coldest month, in fact, is usually August, where we feel like we’re freezing while the remainder of the country, including cities right across the bridge from us, will be experiencing heat waves that are allegedly sending people to the emergency room. On that same night, I’ll be whipping out scarves and my wool coat…. and wondering if it would be a fashion faux pas to wear knee-high boots in August, despite what the temperature tells me is reasonable. With this weather comes a natural inclination to want hot food items. It’s only three or four times a year that residents of San Francisco will want ice-cold food items, and on those God-awful hot days, we can usually be found gathering in movie theaters, or just hanging out in the supermarket aisles for the free air conditioning, as many San Francisco apartments do not have air conditioning.
Among hot food items, the king is undoubtedly “hot pot”.
In a city where the Chinese population is near the majority – hot pot style of eating has evolved here. It’s also no wonder that shabu shabu the Japanese version of this style of cuisine, is also incredibly popular.
My personal preference has always been Shabu House. It’s simple, and offers my favorites, meat and vegetables, along with a bowl full of hot water or good soup into which you are expected to cook the meat and veggies. Hot pot, on the other hand, offers as massive assortment of other “boilables” — and the soup bases are usually more varied. But having a wide array of choices is not my thing. All I want are a few great choices; lots of mediocre choices are useless if none rock your boat, so to speak.
Having said that, I was in search of something hot and “soupy”, that would offer meat and vegetables while allowing me to experience a place I had not been before. This ruled out Shabu House, my usual favorite, so I searched the internet and found a restaurant called “The Pot’s Restaurant”, it read– and I was quite certain that this must be a spelling error. (It wasn’t; this is actually what their signage states, too.)
Entering The Pot’s Restaurant, you notice that this place is (1.) new; (2.) clean; and (3.) quite large. The tables are spaced out generously, and while the mood feels more appropriate for Boba Tea or Yogurtland and doesn’t really match the hot pot style, it works. It’s a very pleasant space with apple green walls and modern seating with black tables. Immediately, we were greeted by staff and they set up a table for us and seated us. Off the bat, I noticed that the “condiments” they offered for your dipping sauce (and only ponzu sauce is available at this time), were interesting. Fresh minced garlic, green onions, cilantro and hot sauce were your choices. Being a huge fan of cilantro, I was excited. The only thing missing was some chopped serrano peppers, but then again, that’s just my preference.
The Food at The Pot’s
The Pot’s Restaurant has many soup base choices available, including plain water, pork bone broth and a preserved egg / cilantro soup base. We opted for half and half: the spicy soup and the satay soup base for Mr. K who doesn’t like or tolerate spicy like I can. The satay soup was actually quite good, even from the start before we dipped anything in it. The spicy soup was also good, but I did note that it was bit too salty to start, and I knew it would get extremely salty by the time I was done. For those of us who want to drink soup, it will get to be a bit much; for those who only use it to cook the food items, it actually flavors your food better than bland soup.
The main appeal of this place was that it offered meat slices like Shabu Shabu places, and we opted for the prime rib slices on the menu. Presented before us was a plate full of large meat slices, mostly well marbled but not without chunks of fat in it. I, as you may have figured out, will tolerate a decent amount of good fat if it means taste, and I was happy to see this plate, but the proof would be in how it tasted. I swirled a piece of meat in the hot boiling soup and took it out to dip in the ponzu sauce. One taste, and I was rather impressed. I entered The Pot’s Restaurant knowing that it would not hold a candle to my favorite Shabu House, but I was taken aback by how good this meat did taste. It was soft, tender, and while it did have a tendency to fall apart when boiled due to being too tender, it was also quite delicious. As you can see, the marbling was even enough, too.
Off the rest of the menu, we ordered a bunch of other things. Now, eating with me at a Chinese place usually means that if there is something bizarre on the menu, I will usually order it, much to Mr. K’s horror. (He’s a good sport about it, though, as he will always try it once – which is all I ask – and once in awhile, he will even like whatever unusual thing I had him try.)
In addition to the typical hot pot fare like beef balls, shrimp balls, and some dumpling and siu mai type options, we also ordered some tofu, greens like watercress and spinach, deep-fried tofu, deep-friend taro root, flat rice noodles, enoki mushroom and the strange parts of animals.
At The Pot’s Restaurant, they offer goodies like coagulated pork blood, pig stomach, pig intestines, and other delicacies. As pork blood is also used in Korean cooking, I was determined and excited to try this. I love beef intestines, so I decided to try that, too. I skipped the stomach on this evening, and passed the menu to Mr. K so he would actually have something to eat, too.
He added raw shrimp…which he would then cook; he lives dangerously, what can I say?
When one orders strange things off a menu, one has to expect some failures along the way. The intestines were a bit much for me. Not in flavor, as that was okay, but there was just too much fat and oil in this, and a full order by myself was pushing it, even for me. When I had consumed about 3-4 pieces, I found that I wanted no more.
The watercress option was a good one as it offered a semi-crunchy, fresh and fragrant vegetable option to combine with your meat and meat parts. The spinach, which I normally get anyway, was – well, spinach. Cooked lightly, it combines perfectly with the enoki mushroom.
The highlight of this meal for me, aside from the great beef, was the pork blood.
I have tried blood in many locations. I know for a fact and from experience that coagulating pork blood and making it just the right texture is not an easy feat, and in fact, many Korean places fail. I only know how to do it because my mom has made pans and pans of coagulated blood for her restaurant in the past.
How a Korean cook makes this item is almost like an art form. I absolutely detest it when I order this and find that the texture, even just by appearance, has holes and air pockets in it. It then has a spongy texture and bite to it, almost like eating a dish sponge that tastes like iron. When made properly, it should look like silken tofu, and be near hole-less, and smooth. It should look almost like liver. When made right, it will have a definite jello-like “pop” to it when you bite it, and if made wrong, the piece will crumble or feel gritty when you take a bite.
At The Pot’s Restaurant, they offered perfectly made blood chunks. These pieces, you want to cook for at least 5 minutes in boiling broth, and when I tried it, I was impressed. (I single-handedly finished that entire bowl by myself, and might be suffering from an overdose of iron today.) I also cooked the flat rice noodles in my spicy broth, which made for a delicious bowl of noodles.
Off the top of my head, they offered regular thin rice noodles, egg noodles, udon noodles, and a couple others, in addition to the flat rice noodles.
Conclusion: The Pot’s Restaurant
All in all, I really quite enjoyed The Pot’s Restaurant.
I decided that on my next visit, I’d opt for a different soup base. While the spicy was good, it used entirely too much chili oil — which offers more oil than spice. I think I’ll opt for the pork broth and the preserved egg / cilantro broth, to give things an unusual kick.
I’d skip the intestines, and try some more dumplings.
For your information, their policy was to add $1 per person if you opted for the half/half soup base though I am not sure what the reasoning for that was.
From Sundays to Thursdays, eating “all you can eat” at The Pot’s is $22.99, and the split broth cost $2 extra for us. They had a separate menu with items not included in this offers, such as scallops, oysters, and other goodies — none of which we tried last night. (Edited to add: I have tried most items on the menu since this visit and they were all interesting and pretty good–especially the pork stomach!)
Twice during the meal, Mr. K heard me say the unthinkable: “You know, I think I would come back here over Shabu House… I really would.”
Partially, it was due to the service. The servers here, one in particular who seemed like the head server, were truly friendly and efficient. Not only were they polite and informative, they were on top of things and all the tables had what they were wanting or needing — all delivered with a smile.
Shabu House’s service pisses me off on most nights, though it depends on the server. Secondly, the price difference is significant. At Shabu, the “all you can eat” option is $29.95, compared to the $22.95 at The Pot’s — and The Pots offers meat that is equally good (though not Kobe) with a myriad of other options; Shabu offers the meat and vegetables — that’s it. I could just as easily come to The Pot’s and have just meat and veggies, pay less, and go home just as full.
Every other visit at Shabu House, I end up with a plate of beef that is so good that it’s incomparable to The Pot’s or anywhere else–but it’s inconsistent. The plates in between that are offered, claiming Kobe slices, are actually about as good as the prime rib offered at The Pot’s Restaurant. If nothing else, it’s food for thought and a different option.
The Pot’s is located at 2652 Judah , between 31st and 32nd Avenue. I can’t find a website for them but here’s a Facebook page. They are opened nightly for dinner only, until 10 P.M. The restaurant is able to accommodate large parties, based on the layout; I would suggest calling to make a reservation. Keep in mind, however, that for whatever reason, they do not appear to have their beer/wine license at this time and offered no alcohol on the evening of January 9th, 2011.
I’m perfectly fine with that so long as they did not advertise having unlimited alcohol like this junk of a place, Shabu Pub, did in their marketing.