97 Hot Pot (Lunch)

Hot pot. I can never get enough–especially once the cold weather hits (although I’ve never been one to turn down a summer trip to Chili Hot Pot). I usually don’t branch away from my favourites but, when I heard that 97 Hot Pot offered a pared down version of hot pot for lunch, I knew I had to try it out.

One of the most glorious and gluttonous things about hot pot is that generally, you eat your fill. Each hot pot restaurant charges a set price (usually $25-$30) and you indulge in a hedonistic all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Lunch, on the other hand, doesn’t quite give you the food baby you’ve come to expect from a hot pot experience…and that’s probably a good thing.

At 97 Hot Pot, $12.95 gets you your choice of broth, five items from their menu of entrees, and a bowl of mixed vegetables. Definitely not all-you-can-eat, but not exactly Weight Watchers, either.

Sauces

My go-to soup (satay) wasn’t on the menu, so I chose the Szechuan spicy chicken, which was delicious and had the perfect amount of spice–I still like to be able to feel my tongue afterwards. For entrees, I went with the sliced sirloin beef, sliced lamb, winter melon slices, Japanese crab sticks (some of these aren’t on the full menu but they’re on the checklist you’re given), and fish balls. The mixed vegetable bowl came with broccoli, a portion of corn on the cob, squash, sui choy, bok choy, and a handful of enoki mushrooms. And, since going back, I’ve tried the handmade fish mash, which is also very good, although I’d prefer a shrimp mash if it was an option.

Szechuan spicy chicken soup

Overall? I was really impressed. You get a significant amount of food for half the price of regular hot pot and it’ll leave you feeling full and satisfied, but not uncomfortably stuffed, which is perfect if you have to go back to work afterwards (as in my case). The food items aren’t as fresh as Chili Hot Pot, but everything was still extremely tasty and the service was lightning fast. But seriously, how can you go wrong for only $13?

Sliced sirloin beef and sliced lamb
Fish balls and Japanese crab sticks

I’ve been back since and will be going again next week, so I’d say 97 Hot Pot is onto something smart by offering a lunch version. Asian Express Hot Pot is currently also offering lunch, but I haven’t seen anything yet from Urban Shabu or Chili Hot Pot (though the latter might be a little too out of the way for a lunchtime excursion). In any case, I’d recommend this restaurant if you want a quick, tasty hot pot lunch but would defer you to Chili Hot Pot if you want to invest more time in an evening hot pot experience.

97 Hot Pot
10602 92 Street
Edmonton, AB
(587) 521-1888

4/5

ALL HAPPY FAMILY RESTAURANT

For years, Chinatown’s Garden Bakery was my go-to Chinese food hotspot. The dishes were delicious, the service prompt, and the bakery downstairs always sold my favourite curry puffs and peanut balls.

Dining there recently was a huge shock. I don’t expect to be eating food cooked by a Red Seal chef, but I do expect that my noodles will be fresh and al dente, rather than microwaved into a gelatinous blob reminiscent of an antagonist in a 1958 horror film.

When a restaurant goes downhill to this extent, it’s time to take up shop elsewhere. In my case, I moved my loyalties next door to All Happy Family Restaurant.

All Happy is best known as the place to go after a wild, drunken night at the bar. They’re open till 4am, allowing you to fill your junk food cravings after spending the night dancing and drinking your face off at Knoxville’s or Central Social Hall. It’s cheap, the food is served within minutes, and it’s a delicious alternative to a packed McDonald’s drive-thru.

However, unlike many of my friends, I also like to eat in Chinatown during the day whilst still moderately sober. I visited All Happy for a dinner with my friend Amanda–my usual date for a Garden Bakery romp–and we were sold. The noodles were as good as the Garden Bakery’s used to be and had all of the flavour that its next-door neighbour appears to have lost.

Amanda and I are purists when it comes to our Chinatown dinners: we order the same two things each time (but don’t worry–as a halfer, I’ve tried a variety of Cantonese cuisine and a smorgasbord of Mandarin delicacies throughout my life).

The Seafood Chow Mein was beautiful. Crispy, fresh noodles served as a bed for a mound of crunchy gai lan, tender scallops, shrimp, carrots, and squid. The sauce, which can turn to jelly if old, left sitting on a counter, or microwaved, had a perfectly thick consistency and was full of savoury seafood flavour.

The Beef Chow Fun with Gai Lan–my personal favourite–was so fresh and hot that I burnt my mouth slightly in my haste to devour it. This version of Beef Chow Fun is the ‘wet version’ (something you should mention if you order it in a restaurant), which differs from the usual ‘dry version’ that is stir fried in spices. I prefer the sauce on my noodles, which is why I order this version. It’s tasty and a nice change from the usual if you’re feeling only slightly adventurous. Gai lan is my favourite of all Chinese vegetables; known as ‘Chinese broccoli,’ it’s crunchy and has a distinct flavour similar to kale.

I also ordered a Litchi (lychee) Cooler, a refreshingly sweet drink full of litchis, which are great as an impromptu after-dinner dessert.

Dinner for two at All Happy came to under $25–a bargain and perfect for those who love a cheap and cheerful Chinatown snack. If you haven’t managed to stumble into this restaurant in the wee hours of the morning yet, give it a shot. Maybe even try it during the day. You might just like it.

P.S. They deliver! Just make sure to order an hour in advance.

All Happy Family Restaurant
10011 106 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5H v2S1
(780) 421-8297
Open 11am to 4am daily

3.5/5