Chongqing Liuishou Hotpot does a brisk trade. Even on a sunny Monday afternoon. It’s a large restaurant, blond wood tables separated by vertical wood partitions. Breaking up what might otherwise be too large space. Each table comes with induction plates. You choose from an individual one, in which case you choose two different flavoured broths. Or larger communal ones, where broths double up to four.
Chongqing Liuishou is a Chinese Hotpot restaurant where diners can choose their broths, a huge selection of ingredients and make their own dipping sauce.
Though it’s novel to have so much choice in the broth, not that much flavour is imparted from dipping ingredients into it. Particularly the meat, which is shaved thinly. The wallop of flavour comes from the dipping sauce. The creation of the dipping sauce is also up to you. There is a counter full of condiments, with long-handled teaspoons jutting out. The idea is to grab a bowl and start filling it with whatever grabs you. Sesame paste is a good bet. As are the chopped scallions, soy sauce and vinegar. Sesame oil comes in plastic cans with a tab. The cans look like the miniature soda cans airlinese used to give out when air travel was still fun. There are chilli pasts. A red one that isn’t for the fainthearted. A green one that packs a kick but is manageable.
Creating your own dipping sauce and judging how long you want to cook your ingredients individualizes the experience.
There is more choice. What do you want to eat? The genius of this concept is all palettes and tastes are accommodated. A meat-eater can regale themselves with tripe or fillet. Fish lovers with scallop and shrimp. The extra-wide rice noodle is the most novel thing I put in my mouth that day. Rendered slippery and sludgey by a short bathe in the broth. Its sticky surface picks up a maximum amount of dipping sauce.
By now we are all (the restaurant is full) enveloped in the funky vapour that has been created by twenty or more pots of bubbling soup. Ours has been topped up 4 times as it has evaporated down to no more than sludge.
Chongqing Liuishou is a busy place, despite being a large restaurant. When all the pots are boiling, it makes a stinky communal fugue but if anything, that adds to the fun of the place. Don’t eat here if you are going somewhere nice afterwards.
We’ve ordered too much. The novelty of each mouthful being different from the last one. And of having an evolving dipping sauce is just too much fun.
A parting word of warning? When they put an emoji of a chilli pepper on the menu at Chongqing Liuishou, they mean it.
Chongqing Liuishou Hotpot, Eixample
Carrer del Consell de Cent, 303,