Dragon Hot Pot
There’s something singularly satisfying about huddling over a piping hot bowl of noodle soup, slurping spicy stock from a plastic ladle as the endlessly rising steam opens up your airways and pores. Dragon Hot Pot on Russell Street offers that experience, plus the chance to shape your own culinary adventure. And it costs as little as $12.80.
The restaurant serves a spicy soup flavoured with Sichuan pepper and dried chilli known as malatang, and guests select the ingredients. It’s a fairly simple system: diners pick up a large golden pot and a pair of tongs and fill their pot with their own combination of meat, noodles, seafood, offal, tofu and vegetables, which are found in two supermarket-style fridges near the till.
Once they’re done, they pass this pot over to their server, who weighs the items and sends them to the kitchen to be cooked in one of three broths: the signature ma la tang, a Sichuan hot and sour, or a collagen bone broth. Enforcing a minimum spend of $12.80, the restaurant charges $3.20 for each 100g of ingredients, and allows diners to choose between four levels of spiciness.
The soup arrives quickly and comes in a very deep bowl. Flecked with chili and delicious globules of oil, the red-orange stock sits somewhere between pho and ramen on the consistency continuum. Cooked for 12 hours with 16 traditional herbs and spices, it’s also popular enough for there to be queues on a Sunday – though the waits are easy to avoid because the restaurant is open 24 hours a day. The fit-out is simple and references the food’s Sichuan origins. There’s enough seating for roughly 40 people. There are wooden tables and a bench that lines the glass store frontage.
A red dragon peers down playfully from one of the walls alongside a handful of Chinese characters and a mural of robe-wearing individuals serving tea. Industrial-style pendants hang overhead, and a soundtrack of Asian pop and dance music just about rises above the din of laughter and slurping.