Tao’s HotPot & Shabu
At first bite, there was something special about Tao's HotPot & Shabu. Perhaps it was learning that the owner, Taobo He, is only 29 years old and inspired to share his passion for his homeland's food in Chongqing—renowned across China and the world as being the mecca of hot pot. Or maybe it was simply his attention to detail, the pristine display of fresh ingredients, and the fun of choosing your own culinary adventure. Whatever it was, Taobo's “jump and the parachute will appear” attitude invigorates each dish with a vigor, a hunger, if you will, that adds a palatable spice of life.
For those new to hot pot, think of it as Asian fondue where the cheese is swapped for a delicious broth, which is left at a boil for the duration of the meal. You then select from a variety of raw ingredients—ranging from thinly sliced meats to vegetables, tofu, and noodles—and cook each in the cauldron. When the meal ends, you turn off the burner and enjoy the broth that has absorbed all the flavors. Trust me: It’s a fun, hands-on dining experience, and Tao's brings an authenticity that our region will appreciate.
Only Tao's has a few twists from the typical adventure: Each diner has an individual hot pot, so there's no need to sacrifice your favorite broth. They also offer an all-you-can-eat option that comes inclusive of everything on the menu (except drinks and the lobster tail), including appetizers like sesame balls, pot stickers, and even fried chicken wings.
I chose the spicy beef broth, the signature flavor of Chongqing, with Australian lamb, American Kobe-style beef, shrimp balls, fish cakes, and pork belly, plus noodles (both soba and ramen). Each hot pot also comes with a side of veggies (mushrooms, leafy greens, Chinese carrots), plus tofu and a quail egg, quaintly served in a ceramic mug.
For drinks? A locally brewed IPA from Device and plum and green tea-infused sake served cold. If you're a sake fan, don't miss this unique offering, which would also make a nice dessert drink.
While everything we ate was of exceptional quality, there were a few items that seemed a little extra inspired, including the shrimp balls—made fresh from whole shrimp. The owner's recipe for a Japanese-inspired shoyu sauce—which he developed at home while trying to find a perfect sauce for his meals—was vibrant and unique, with hints of wasabi and Thai chili. The Australian lamb was also incredibly tasty, especially when combined with said shoyu.
The food was fantastic, and the experience was unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else, including other hot pot restaurants. If you’re craving a fun and delicious meal, try it out. Your tummy will thank you.
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m. (Friday-Sunday); 5-9 p.m. (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday); closed Tuesday
TRY THIS: Fried Chicken Wings, Sesame Balls, Takoyaki, Spicy Beef Broth, Mushroom Broth, Australian Lamb, Kobe Beef, Pork Belly, Shrimp Balls, Lobster Tail
DRINKS: Beer, wine, & sake
HEADS-UP: All-you-can eat includes everything on the menu except drinks and lobster tail; vegetarian and gluten-free options; reservations accepted; online ordering; happy hour Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5-9 p.m. includes free soft drinks and 50% off alcohol; kids under 6 eat free, ages 6-12 are half price
by Ryan Martinez | photos by TAYLOR GILLESPIEPhotos by Taylor Gillespie © and wholly owned by Style Media Group—please don’t steal our copyrighted photos. For more information about our editorial photos, please click here to contact us https://www.stylemg.com/pages/contact-us