When fancy-pants hot pot restaurant The Dolar Shop (Bellevue) landed at The Bravern in October, it kicked into high gear a trend that had been bubbling (pun intended) under the surface. Hot pot, the Chinese meal during which diners dip raw meat, vegetables and noodles into a shared tabletop pot of soup to cook before eating it, has long been available in Seattle. Restaurants like Sichuanese Cuisine and Seven Stars Pepper have offered it for more than a decade in the Chinatown–International District. But as dedicated hot pot shops, such as Little Sheep, began to open, the city’s hunger for this dining option grew, as did the price customers were willing to pay for higher-quality options.
And that’s exactly what they get at The Dolar Shop, an international chain famed for its wagyu beef cubes ($25.99 for 15 bites), eye-catching seafood platter served on dry ice (39.99) and silky house-made shrimp pâté ($9.99). Lavishly decorated with gold and flourishes, and overwhelming in the number of options—including a buffet of almost two dozen sauces ($1.99 per person) and a book-size menu—the individual hot pots ($3.99–$6.99) and stunningly served ingredients seem too good to be true. But the quality and flavor back up the bravado, making the total price more palatable.
Not far away, a similar, slightly less opulent spot opened just four months later in a former dim sum restaurant location. Liuyishou (Bellevue, 1644 140th Ave. NE; 425.643.9050), another large chain, focuses more on ingredient quality than theatrics. Still, the sliced beef and lamb platter ($13.95) arrives at the table beautifully laid out on a giant round metal tray that fits perfectly over the shared pot of soup in the center. While its luxury ingredients, like supreme marbled wagyu beef slices ($48.95), are on par with The Dolar Shop, Liuyishou also specializes in traditional hot pot ingredients; try an offal trio—goose intestine, beef aorta and duck blood cake ($25.95)—for a taste. But don’t count this place out for flash: Its specialty is the 3D Soup Base ($26.95), in which spiced beef fat molded into the shape of a cow will melt into your soup and flavor it.
NEXT UP: This fall, Chinese chain Haidilao will continue the hot pot trend, first opening a location in Pacific Place, then another on the Eastside. While Seattle probably won’t enjoy the full experience offered in Beijing—which includes manicures for people enduring the near-endless wait for tables—there will likely be the handmade noodles made tableside by a dancing server, the endless pitchers of watermelon juice, and many of the same high-end beef products now offered at Liuyishou and The Dolar Shop.