The Best Hot Pot buffet in Edmonton
review by Jayden Yang
Out of all the hotpot places I’ve been to in Edmonton, I can confidently say that Chinese Hot Pot Buffet is the best to date. Located at 5420 Calgary Trail and a 5 minute drive from Southgate Mall, you won’t miss it with its huge sign.
Once inside, you’ll be surprised by how big it is—I know I was. The restaurant is decorated in a modern-minimalistic design. And even though there is a ton of comfortable seating (and private party rooms), you’ll still most likely have to wait during peak hours because of its popularity.
What is Hot Pot?
There’s a saying that “Hot Pot itself is less of a dish than an experience”. You cook an array of ingredients—thinly sliced meats, vegetables, seafood, noodles, and more in a single pot of simmering, delicious hearty broth heated over an electric or burner stove. Once cooked to your liking, dip it in the sauce of choice and eat it.
Traditionally, people cook their food into one huge pot, but many hotpot restaurants—including the Chinese Hot Pot Buffet—have recently transitioned into having small individual electric-stoves. I like the festivity from sharing a big pot, but the smaller stoves are more convenient and easier to manage while keeping the same experience. The good news is, the friendly staff here will offer you the option to replace the smaller stoves with a big one if you have a large party.
Hotpot is built upon three main components: broth, cooking ingredients, and dipping sauce. All three act together in elevating the experience. The meat/ingredients goes through two different processes: first it gets dipped into the broth to be cooked, and then it gets dipped into the sauce to be eaten. The broth flavours the meat, but the meat also enriches the broth which boosts the taste of upcoming ingredients. The dipping sauce then provides the final layer of flavour.
The broth is the heart of the experience. Not only can you drink it, but it’s also the catalyst that enhances the ingredients. The broth at the Chinese Hot Pot Buffet is the closest you’ll get to authenticity in Edmonton. Although other Hot Pot places are similar, the soup itself isn’t so complex and doesn’t contain the same depth and umami.
My favourite—the Herb and Lamp Spicy—is stewed from a vast variety of spices, herbs, and seasonings. The lamb stock is fresh and stewed to perfection, containing no gamminess; it lightly coats your mouth at first, and ends with a punch of flavour from the peppers. There’s also the Regular Lamb & Herb for people whose palettes are lighter, and the numbing Spicy Szechuan (made from chicken stock, Szechuan peppercorns, red chillies, and chili oil) is a great option if you like heat and are feeling adventurous.
If you don’t eat meat or dairy, there’s also the Fungus Soup (Vegetarian version). The broth is mushroom based with a very clean and rich profile. But if you can eat meat, I would recommend the Herb and Lamp over this.
The vegetables here are also fresh, and the selection is great. I always put in enokitake and oyster mushrooms to further enhance my broth, and finish off with watercress, pumpkin slices, and Chinese lettuce. There are also carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers—all the regular veggies you’d expect as well.
Aside from the great broth, Chinese Hot Pot Buffet also has perhaps the freshest and best ingredient selection in Edmonton. The buffet-style experience is unique, compared to other Hot Pot restaurants: you don’t need to order the items you want off the menu (like every other place); although you still do have to order the meat slices.
Speaking of meat, the lamb slices here are the softest I’ve had with no hidden gaminess. There are also a variety of other cuts like thinly-sliced beef sirloin (another one of my favourites), spicy beef, beef tripe, beef tendon, slices of chicken, pork, and different sets of handmade meatballs and mash. I personally love the fresh tofu here—it literally melts in your mouth, and the hand-pulled noodles become irresistibly good after soaking in the flavours from the broth.
As for seafood, there is the fresh basa I always get, giant shrimp, squid, oysters, clamps, and a variety of fish, shrimp, and lobster meatballs. The salad bar also has pickled vegetables, and fresh fruits like chilled watermelon and orange slices. For dessert, they have ice-cream, mango-tapioca pudding, fried sesame balls, and fried Chinese-buns drizzled in condensed milk that are to die for.
Like the broth and the ingredients, the dipping sauce is also important as it serves to cool your food and elevate the flavours from the broth and the meat. There are over 15 different sauces at the Chinese Hot Pot Buffet, and there is a self-serving area where you get to make your own unique combination of sauces. The selection amount might seem intimidating at first, but just choose the ones you like and don’t be afraid to mix them.
A traditional sauce dip I recommend is: sesame and peanut paste, chilli oil, sesame oil, XO sauce, black vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, and green onions. Add in the amount to your liking, but not too much soy sauce since it can get salty.
Pricing and more
The buffet costs $33.95, and there is a lunch (11am-4pm) and late-night (9pm-close) special where you can choose a broth, and any 5 items off the menu for $15.95.
I usually get my order of meats within 5-10 minutes at the buffet, and for the The Lunch and Late Night Special, my food usually arrives within 10 minutes—even when it’s busy. There is a 2 hour limit for both the buffet and the lunch/dinner special.
The Chinese Hot Pot Buffet is very clean normally, but during rush hours you might need to check if your table needs to be wiped again just in case. Seating times are non-existent, aside from rush hours, and the service is friendly. The tables are also a good height for wheelchair users and the place is plenty big to navigate around.
Chinese Hot Pot Buffet
5420 Calgary Trail, Edmonton
Sunday-Thursday 11am – 12am, Friday and Saturday 11am – 1am