iSpicy Sichuan Hot Pot on Kingsway, Vancouver

Updated 23rd Oct 2014: This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

It was cold. It was damp.

And we were hungry as we drove along Kingsway looking for a place to eat. It was past 2PM already and we only had a cup of coffee and shared a bagel between us since morning. We were telling ourselves that half of the restaurants would probably be closed for the mid day.

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I caught a glimpse of the “All You Can Eat  $17.95” sign outside the restaurant and said Suanne maybe we should just try this place. It’s not in our list of restaurants to-try but I fancy hot pot. It was after all a cold day. Nothing but a Sichuan Hot Pot to spice things up.

iSpicy is an odd name. It sounded more like an internet cafe than a traditional hot pot restaurant. We went in and we were warmly welcomed. The owner and his wife barely speaks English. We are OK because we don’t need to know a lot of Chinese when it comes to AYCE and hot pot.

But as it turned out, we had a very interesting time there. We had a glimpse of what it is like in the struggles of a restaurant owner. We saw a human side of a smallish restaurant trying their very best to remain relevant in a very competitive sector of the economy. More about that later.

iSpicy is a really small restaurant. They have seats for about 20-25 people. Not big for an AYCE hot pot.

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It is only natural, I guess, to expect a smaller hot pot restaurant to charge cheaper. iSpicy’s hot pot is on par with other AYCE hot pot restarants in town. It is $18 for adult.

The choices on the menu is smaller too. We know that for places with larger menu, most of the menu items are fluff. To us the most important thing is the quality of the meat, the beef in particular.

I was a bit confused about the hotpot base. They have a few sizes — small, large and extra large. They crossed out the extra large because it really doesn’t make sense. In most places they charge by the pot and not the size of the pot. The hotpot base does not have the fancy flavours that some places has. It is the spicy soup base that is their primary offering.

As usual we opted for the half-half and said that for the spicy side, it has to be “da-la” (big spicy). The owner told me that I should just go with the middle spicy owe as his da-la might be too much for me. Good thing I did not stick to my original choice!

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The mixed soup base is $8.50 extra. The non-spicy side is made of pork bone. We were asked to taste the soup and he pointed out that the broth is not salted.

We also tasted the Sichuan soup base. It was really spicy. It had big dried red pepper pieces swimming in a very visible layer of red colored oil.

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We later learned that the chef made the sichuan soup base himself from scratch. He told us that it takes … (more…)

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