I’ve literally seen Chinatown grow from its very first days — I attended Strake Jesuit before and during the construction of Diho Square — and I make it a point to visit at least once a month, usually with my high-school age daughter with me. What continues to amaze me is how incredibly rich and amazingly broad the dining scene has become, especially over the last 20 years. Each time I go, I discover not just new dishes, restaurants, regional or even national cuisines, but cooking styles common all over Asia but new to me.
The latest such is hot pot cooking. I first started noticing hot pot dishes and restaurants about 15 years ago, tried my first order a few years after that, and all along, hot pot eateries have been multiplying all up and down the Bellaire corridor: now you can find traditional and hip Chinese, not to mention Chongqing and Sichuan variations; Taiwanese and Hong Kong-style too; and in the case of One Hot Pot & Grill, Vietnamese variations on the ancient style of cooking. (Food historians trace the style back at least 3000 years, and others speculate it could date all the way back to Neolithic origins.)
Skip ahead if you don’t need a hot-pot mansplanation, but read on if you do: also known as “soup-food” or a “steamboat,” generally speaking, a hot pot dish is a powerfully hot, flavorful broth served separate from the rest of it’s ingredients: seafood and / or meats (often delivered raw or undercooked and very thin-sliced) and tofu, mushrooms and vegetables, and noodles and dumplings. While keeping the stock at a slow simmer, diners use the rest of their ingredients and various sauces to create a variety of different soup dishes as they see fit — most often, meat and seafood goes into the gently boiling broth first and then the vegetables. After steeping in the broth as needed, these items are removed and sauced to each diner’s liking, and once all items are simmered, you switch off the heat under the broth and, as a sort of dessert, enjoy the now very flavorful soup last.
In addition to a full menu of non-hot pot Vietnamese grilled dishes, One Hot Pot — sleek and dark, yet also cheery inside — offers typically seafood-heavy hot pots hailing from that mainly coastal nation. Shrimp, crab, and shellfish of many varieties (oysters, clams, mussel-like sea snails, and scallops) abound. “Chut-chut” snails in sweet-creamy and savory coconut milk are another popular dish — it takes some coaching to eat them, but extracting the sweet snail meat from the shell is not unlike sucking a crawfish head, an art most Houstonians have mastered. I regretted offering my Korean-style grilled beef with my daughter after a bite or two, for I never saw it again once it came into range of her chopsticks. As for the broths, they were amazing, even if we didn’t get the full hot pot experience: by a combination of ignorance on the finer points of hot pot dining methods and pandemic social distancing-enforced to-go ordering, we found ourselves jumbling up two different hot pot packages (Thai and surf and turf) at our picnic table at nearby Arthur Storey Park…Nevertheless, even a hot pot experience as mishmashed as our was and without the steady simmering broth, it was an illuminating and tasty experience. (As well as musical — a group of about 12 parkgoers had taken over a nearby gazebo, where they performed modern-day blues in both full-band mode and karaoke-style.)
Well worth a return visit, especially now that the dining room is open and adhering to safety regulations.
One Hot Pot & Grill
12148 Bellaire Blvd #112, 77072