Chongqing Laojiumen is where to go in Toronto when you need a cartoon character in your hot pot. Made out of beef fat and available in very limited quantities daily, these cute edible gimmicks come as a cute bear, Hello Kitty or Doraemon.
As the hot broth fills up, it gives the impression that the character is taking a bath, before finally (and very quickly) evaporating into the broth, giving it an extra richness that I don’t often find at other hot pot places.
While the whole thing is admittedly very gimmicky, it actually works because the hot pot itself tastes so good. At Chongqing Laojiujmen, AYCE hot pot offerings are $23.95 on weekdays and $25.95 on weekends.
I pair my spicy cartoon character broth with a sweeter tomato one. This half-and-half pot setup is an additional $18.95. If you want the cartoon pot by itself, the cost is $16.95 instead.
If you want to avoid gimmicks altogether, I'd recommend the spicy clear soup. I get mine paired with a mushroom soup. The price for this half-and-half setup is an additional $13.95.
Whatever your broth selection, you always get the usual wide selection of ingredients as well as the build your own sauce. I create mine with a mix of sesame paste and oil, garlic, mushroom sauce, peanuts, hot chili oil and a dash of sugar.
The New Zealand lamb is delicious. It has a nice flavour that’s not too gamey, and absorbs the broth very well. I also love the pork neck meat. With alternating layers of meat and fat, it has the perfect amount of marbling.
One thing I don’t often see at hot pot places are frog legs. They taste like a tender chicken thigh.
I love the specialty drinks here ($4.95). They all use Yakult-type beverage as a base, and mix it with milk and fruit juice like peach, honeydew or lychee.
Make sure to save room for dessert. The glutinous rice balls are so comforting and the perfect way to end the indulgent meal.