Panda Hot Pot
Step through big wooden doors into a world channelling Ang Lee’s 2000 action film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
A grand staircase sweeps up through the centre of Panda Hot Pot, decked out in red, gold and wood. Both levels are watched over by a nearly 16-metre-long, 1.5-tonne steel dragon that was brought over from Chengdu, and hangs suspended from the ceiling.
This is the first Panda Hot Pot for Australia. It was established in Chengdu City, China in 2015, and has since expanded to Japan, Malaysia and the US. The chain’s signature flavour is a spicy 12-hour broth cooked with Sichuan peppercorns and chilli ordered in from Chengdu, but there are three mild broths, too: tomato, mushroom and pork bone.
To order, choose your soup base and spice level, then decide which of the 80 ingredients on offer – proteins include Sichuan spicy beef, ox tongue, pork rib, pork sausage, duck intestine, tofu and shrimp, and vegetables cover off enoki and shiitake mushrooms, bamboo slices, seaweed, Chinese cabbage and fresh lotus root – you’ll DIY cook in the broth. When they're cooked, dip each piece in your choice of sauce – the team recommends a combination of sesame oil and garlic – and if you need something to keep you going while your soup is cooking, order some fried sticky rice cakes, or fried rice with egg.
To drink, there's plum juice, coconut milk and oolong tea. Beers include Asahi on tap and bottled Tsingtao, and there are four Penfolds wines by the bottle as well as peach- and lychee-driven cocktails.