Nine Cube Hot Pot
Nine Cube Hot Pot takes this style of dining to another level. Located in the First Markham Place complex, this small restaurant provides a four-pot and even an eponymous 9-grid hot pot where you can cook your favourite ingredients.
The AYCE hot pot prices start at $22.99 for dinner and $17.99 for lunch, with a $2 surcharge on weekends. The setup is one pot per table, so sharing is definitely the order of the day here.
The space is small, but bright and cheerfully furnished. Cute Asian decorations line the wall, and the red ceiling accoutrement is impressively modern-chic. While seating can be a bit limited during meal times, the overall setup is not uncomfortable.
The showpiece of the restaurant is, undoubtedly, their innovative pots. While most restaurants offer either a single or half-and-half pot, Nine Cube doubles down on that with a quadri-grid pot (+$5.99). Yes, that means FOUR different soup bases bubbling simultaneously in front of you.
This quadri-grid allows me to sample all four main broths offered by the restaurant. The House Original, the subtlest in flavour; the Special House Spicy, (obviously) the tongue-numbing one; the Tomato Beef Soup, which has a strong tomato-and-herb flavour; and the Satay Beef Soup, the most savoury of the four.
If you decide to only get a single broth, make sure to try it in their signature nine-cube pot. It's an ingenious way of keeping track of the ingredients that you dunk into the hot pot.
Nine Cube also offers up interesting and impressive side dishes. For starters, you can try the Grilled Beef Griddle Base (+$8.99), which is basically a type of dry hot pot also known in its native country as mala xiang guo. Extremely well-seasoned, the tender beef and spicy vegetables blend beautifully.
Feel like making a meal out of the dry hot pot? Make sure to ask for the mala udon noodles (+$6.99), in which those very same vegetables and meat are mixed with chewy udon noodles. Spicy and satisfying, it's a great side dish to share with the whole table.
I also highly recommend adding the house-made dumplings to your hot pot broths. The leek and pork, as well as celery and pork dumplings, nicely soak up the broths' seasonings and combine to make a wonderful flavour sensation in your mouth.
Ingredients-wise, make sure to order the buttery-smooth New Zealand sliced lamb, along with the hand-made fish paste. They are among the best I've had in my extensive hot pot experience.
To cool down my tastebuds, I order the Wong Lo Kat (+$2.25), also known as Jia Duo Bao, a sweet herbal drink popular in China among hot pot enthusiasts.
It's nice to see how Nine Cube takes hot pot dining to an extreme. Of course, the overall hot pot experience will only go as far as the quality takes you, so it's good to know that underneath all its zany gimmicks, the hot pot itself here is, in my opinion, excellent.