Q Hot Pot Japanese Fondue & Asian Tapas Bar (8610 NW Prairie View Road), named after owner Kieu Cao, features shabu shabu cooking at its Zona Rosa location. Shabu shabu, a Japanese cooking technique also known as hot pot, involves diners as they cook fresh and raw ingredients in a pot of gently boiling broth at the table. Cao, who studied fashion merchandising in her hometown of Boston, was a fan of hot pot restaurants in that city.
“I ate it with friends there at a slow pace,” says Cao. “There were no hot pot places in Kansas City so I wanted to bring it here. Some of our customers that have traveled to Boston and eaten hot pot are glad to have it here.”
Cao opened Q Hot Pot with boyfriend Vinh Luong. The restaurant’s robin egg blue interior with wall graphics, long wooden sushi bar counter and minimalist decor create a slick modern pop culture feel.
“I like bright colors,” says Cao. “I didn’t want dark colors or red that is typical of Japanese design. I like our fresh, clean look.”
The restaurant’s alternate description of hot pot as Japanese fondue has nothing to do with dipping food into melted cheese served in a communal pot. Fondue has ties to Swiss, Italian and French cuisine. Hot pot is common to different Asian cuisines in slightly different forms, where diners cook ingredients in broth.
The cooking technique at Q begins with an induction cooking surface mounted on the center of the dining table. Customers begin by deciding on the base ingredient platter and up to two broths. Chicken and vegetarian broth are no extra charge. Variations such as Korean kimchi, Thai tom yum, Japanese miso, tomato veggie and Vietnamese pho are a slight upcharge ($2.50-4.50). The pot contains two chambers so separate types of broth may be placed in each.
Platter options at varying prices include seafood, chicken, prime ribeye, short rib, pork, vegetables and more. Platters arrive with the selected meat or seafood, plus additional vegetables and tofu. The seafood platter was loaded with shrimp, chunks of salmon, tilapia, surf clam, mussels, fish balls and calamari. It came with a separate plate of Napa cabbage, baby bok choy, shitaake mushrooms, sliced carrots, tofu and more. Fat udon noodles are perfect for soaking up broth, but rice vermicelli or rice are alternate selections.
“Chicken and beef platters are the most popular. Our Asian customers usually order the seafood platter,” says Cao. “The Chinese spicy broth goes well with meat and the Thai tom yum broth goes best with seafood.”
The server will explain the basic format. Here’s the do-it-yourself process, step-by-step. Once the broths boil in the pot, ingredients may be added individually, in stages or all at once. It’s advisable to place carrots and thicker ingredients in first that take longer to cook. Next, add the remaining ingredients in any order as desired, including the noodles. Lighter ingredients such as vegetables and tofu only take a few minutes until done. Seafood and thinly shaved meats (beef, chicken, pork) cook promptly. Short rib and other cuts of meat take slightly longer.
Once cooked, the ingredients and broth are ladled into bowls. Additional soy sauce, flavored with minced green onion, garlic and chili pepper, may be added to the broth. Start eating, slurping and savoring one spoonful at a time. If all of the ingredients weren’t used initially, add the remainder to the broth which becomes more rich with each round of cooking.
One hot pot easily feeds two to three people. Q Hot Pot also prepares sushi, sides such as seaweed salad and spicy crab salad, plus small plates including veggie rolls, egg rolls and edamame.
Whether you call it hot pot or shabu shabu, it’s fun to say and try this communal dining experience at least once.