June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
My parents visited me this past weekend and we decided to venture into the suburbs of Northern Virginia for a trip to Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot, a Chinese restaurant located on a shopping strip in Falls Church. On the outside the place looks like a hole-in-the-wall but it is surprisingly large once you enter. Though the restaurant has a lunch buffet as well as a ordering menu, we obviously had to try out the hot pot. We were seated at a large round table with a heating element in the middle for the pot. There are several options for your choice of broth. We chose to order half clear broth and half spicy broth, and these came together in a large pot divided down the middle. The mild broth contained green onion stalks, tomatoes, and goji berries, while the spicy broth had chili oil and dried peppers.
The menu offers an assortment of ingredients to cook in the hotpot, most about $5 for one portion. We ordered some meats (sliced beef, fish balls), vegetables (mushrooms, greens, lotus root), glass noodles, tofu, and fish.
The slices of beef were fatty and chewy, yet tender – the most delicious, especially cooked in the spicy broth. I also enjoyed the fish, which was sliced up and marinated in some sort of cornstarch mixture. The fish balls were standard. The clear broth at first was rather bland, but over the hour it slowly absorbed the flavors of all the ingredients and gained more depth and a more savory taste. The spicy broth was pretty hot, even for Chinese standards, so beware! Overall the ingredients were fresh though the portions were pretty measly, especially for the leafy greens. Those cook down so quickly so even a large bunch of raw leaves turn into a small pile of cooked vegetables.
Our meal came out to about $80, including a big communal bowl of white rice. I would expect a greater quantity of food for this price, though in the end we just about finished everything. The service was very fast, and the restaurant was actually pretty empty for lunch on a Sunday – though admittedly we did have a rather late lunch, around 1:30.
They say you find the best ethnic foods not in the city but in the suburbs, since that is where all the immigrant families settle down, and because the rent is much lower out here. It’s true that this place would probably be better and cheaper than anything I would find in D.C. So if you are passing through the area, this is not a bad place to check out. My family also enjoys the dishes on their normal menu, which I have not tried yet.