My own particular love affair with hot pot dates back to the very home of the dish; Sichuan province, and its capital, Chengdu, on my second trip to China in 1993.
Few hot pot restaurants today serve up that which I then witnessed being tipped into the bubbling broth; eels, brain, intestines; the only edible object to me being the ever-present slices of potato.
Fortunately, hot pot has developed greatly in the past 25 years. In Nanjing, there is nowhere better to see this in the flesh (pun intended), than at newly-opened Bolanghao Hot Pot, off Wangfu Da Jie, in Nanjing’s downtown that is Xinjiekou.
Established by three Post-90s millenials, Bolanghao speaks to a new age of hot pot that is slick and cool, with the design asthetics to match. Taking their cue from the vintage porcelain bathroom tiles of a century ago, the interior decor of Bolanghao would be, until recently, unthinkable in hotpot circles. It is a rare case indeed where a hot pot toilet can be considered worthy of sharing on social media; even the bathroom is decked out in matching materials.
The food is standard hot pot fare; a departure from this would not only be tantamount to sacrilege, but would also render the restaurant itself devoid of meaning. Hot pot customers, after all, have certain expectations that must be met. Herein though, lies the opportunity to excel. With the condiment buffet, for example, Bolanghao has had the inspiration to keep available a number of bowls with the restaurant’s own concoction of sauce and spice. Such is ideal for a hot pot novice, while also serving as a handy starting point from which one can develop one’s own secret recipe. The spicier, the better.
One of the owners spent considerable time in Melbourne, Australia, in the past, and has therefore brought to this new trendy spot the theme of “dining across the oceans”. Marine scenes and videos are projected onto the restaurant walls, adding a pleasant touch of contrast to the vintage look, while a little model of some of Nanjing’s better-known buildings, sitting across an “ocean” of Melbourne’s similar, takes pride of place in the entrance window.
Rarely is a hot pot restaurant worthy of mention on account of its beverages; usually it’s ice-cold beer all the way. Yet, in this field, Bolanghao once again sets a new trend, having opted for a large selection of vintage-styled soft drinks, produced by the now-hip, Wuhan-based Hankou No.2 Soda Factory.
Make no mistake, hot pot’s bubbly broth has never been better.
Bolanghao 波浪号 is located at 90-5 Wangfu Da Jie, at the junction with Sanmao Xiang. Tel 13951717192.