Glen Waverley, VIC
Too often, restaurants serve up flaccid and lifeless renditions of traditionally fiery Chinese dishes, leaving my family disappointed and barely breaking a sweat. Thank goodness for Chong Qing Hot Pot, where they are not afraid to use copious amounts of oil, chilli, and peppercorns, which is perfect for our southern Chinese palates. Even though most people tend to come here for the hot pots, we prefer to order a la carte for a nostalgic meal that reminds us of home.
Even though the restaurant is big and spacious, the out-of-the-way location means that Chong Qing Hot Pot is never as busy as we feel it deserves to be. On the other hand, this makes for much more relaxing dining than at places whose goal is to just pack as many people in as possible. The wait staff here are all dressed in waistcoats, and their friendliness and attentiveness is something one doesn’t usually expect from Chinese eateries.
Tonight however, service is a bit more scattered than usual. Three different waiters came to take our order, one of our dishes was unavailable, and it took a good half hour before our first dish was served. We were given a small scoop stewed peanuts to snack on as we wait, and they tasted just like the kind mum stews at home, with a strong aniseed flavour.
|Fish-Flavoured Pork ($19.8)|
The first dish to arrive for the night was the Fish Flavoured Pork ($19.8), which is a common order of ours. The first thing we noticed is that the portion sizes are no longer as generous as they used to be, and digging through the decent variety of vegetables (which includes capsicum, black fungus, bamboo shoots, and a few more), we found less meat than we would have liked. Flavour-wise, it’s still a yummy dish to have with rice ($2 per person), but it no longer has the lip-tingling heat we know and love.
|Fried Eggplant with Pork Mince ($16.8)|
Now I don’t know what happened to the picture of the Fried Eggplant with Pork Mince ($16.8), other than it turned out really, REALLY ugly. The actual dish consisted of slippy soft strands of eggplant that were fragrant from caramelisation and a generous hand with the oil, and topped with a salty pork mince. This was another heavy dish that’s best had with rice.
|Green Vegetable with Tofu Soup ($12.8)|
The Green Vegetable with Tofu Soup ($12.8) was the surprise dish of the night. The first thing you have to know about this soup is that the serving is incomprehensibly huge. There’s enough for 10 people to have a bowl each, with some left over. And despite looking very bland with chunks of tofu and shredded bok choy, it was actually very tasty thanks to the pork soup base, which gave the soup a subtle meaty and umami flavour.
|Stewed Pork with Tofu|
The last dish to arrive in a rustic earthenware pot was the Stewed Pork with Tofu ($19.8). Despite looking forward to it all night, my dad found this dish to be disappointing. The tofu was dry and flavourless, and the fatty pork belly, which should traditionally be soft and melty, was disconcertingly chewy.
|Honey Lemon ($2)|
And before I forget, my sister also ordered a Honey Lemon ($2) to drink. Made with real honey and real lemons, this was a touch on the too-sweet side, but it was light and refreshing when diluted with a bit of iced water.
It’s always sad when a favourite restaurant takes a turn for the worst. Tonight’s dinner left us craving for more heat and bigger portions. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’re just having a bad night, and I’m hoping that they’ll be back to their former glory on our next visit.
Rating: 12.5/20 – normally 14.5/20