MacaoDoulao is a glitzy, almost shimmering, a la carte hot pot restaurant in Richmond Hill that has just about everything you could want in such a place.
It's an international chain from China established in 1988, with over 200 locations spread across the country. This is its first Canadian outpost.
The interior is swanky and full of marbled accents. There's so much bright light and shine that it gives me banquet hall wedding vibes — definitely not a shrine to minimalism.
Let's start with what is undoubtedly one of the main gimmicks of the place: robot servers. These friendly little dudes smoothly and silently glide over the restaurant's vast interior to bring your orders.
Honestly, I can't get enough of them (or the Canon in D tune which soothingly plays when they move around the restaurant), as there's something adorable about it all. There is a small limitation, however. Due to weight restrictions, they can't carry broths or heavy platters.
MacaoDoulao also has its own live seafood tanks. This means you get an abundance of rare seafood produce like geoduck which isn't commonly found at hot pot restaurants.
And yes, an absolute smorgasbord of shellfish is available here too.
Since the restaurant is a la carte, you start by picking your soup base. A popular and safe choice is the Mushroom Soup Base ($6.99 for an individual pot) which has a lightly sweet, earthy tone.
Fans of spicy hot pot can opt for the Spicy Soup base ($6.99 for an individual pot) which can be further customized into three separate levels of spice.
And of course, what would any awesome hot pot restaurant be without a comprehensive dipping sauce station?
MacaoDoulao doesn't disappoint, featuring all your favourites from sesame paste to chilli oil, all decorated in the restaurant's signature glitzy setting. It's the poshest sauce station I've ever seen, period.
As for toppings, the possibilities are endless. I'm a big fan of the handmade Golden Egg Dumplings ($5.99) which contain folded egg omelettes. They're definitely a nice change from your usual dumplings.
The meat selections here are ridiculously expansive. The marbled beef slices ($18.99) provide a nice mixture of lean and fatty parts, fantastic for dipping into your bubbling broth.
For those on a smaller budget, the pork belly ($8.99) provides a lot of bang for your buck. The light fattiness of the meat nicely soaks up my custom-made dipping sauce, and the dish is one of my favourites here.
You can't have proper hot pot without lamb, so the New Zealand lamb slices ($10.99) here represent good value.
Somewhat unique here is the American Wagyu beef cubes ($39.99) which I have never encountered in any other hot pot places. While tasty, some of the cubed parts can be a bit dry, so I personally prefer to stick to my regular sliced variety.
And of course, the live seafood tanks aren't just for show. Order a festively-huge Luxury Assorted Seafood Platter for $78.99, which actually represents excellent value given the variety and freshness of the platter, featuring everything from king crab to surf clams.
A cornucopia of vegetable options are also available, ranging from mushrooms to fresh greens. I personally love the Mushroom Platter ($13.99), which features a variety of mushrooms in one convenient serving.
The milky steamed buns ($5.99) are a humble, yet absolutely delicious, side order. The soft and pillowy buns go great with the condensed milk dipping sauce and are a must-order. I didn't even want to share mine.I've saved one awesome fact for last: if you book a private room, you can get a room outfitted with full 360-degree projection videos, making your hot pot dining a fun and trippy experience. A little unnecessary, but is it ever awesome.