The Cube Hotpot
Shop 90C, Sunnybank Plaza, Sunnybank
I was curious about Cube since it opened. One of the most wonderful aspects of dining in a Shanghai Winter is having HOTPOT. Chinese-style hotpot usually involves a large pot of soup in the center of the table. You then arrange a selection of raw ingredients that are added to the pot once it's on the boil. Cooked items are fished out and dipped in a sauce of your creation before consumption.
Popular ingredients include: sliced lamb (my family's favorite), fish/meatballs, baby octopus, taro, egg dumplings, vermicelli, wom bok.
There's no restrictions, really. But in my family, it's all about the lamb. You can have sliced beef, chicken, pieces of fish but I can't think of anything nicer than fatty lamb in hot pot. And it's got to be young and fatty!
Shanghai has tonnes of hotpot places and the ingredients on offer are just mind-blowing. The place we go to has a 'saucing station' where there's about 30 different jugs/bowls of condiments, spices and herbs for you to mix and match. Oh and the drinks are all complimentary and bottomless (including beer).
There isn't anything quite like THAT in Brisbane (or, even Australia as far as I know... not for those prices anyway) but I thought Cube sounded promising so I suggested to mum and dad that we check it out over Easter.
We got there for lunch and it was totally empty... hmmm... well I admit that hotpot is more of a 'dinner' thing but even so, empty is never a good sign.
NONETHELESS, we sat down and perused the menu. Like the Shanghai hotpot restaurants, there's a checklist/form-type menu. You choose a soup-base (different prices for different soup complexities) and write in the quantities of ingredients that you want. Everything here is on the pricey side including sauce which is ~ $2-3 a plate.
Since we hadn't eaten here before, we were uncertain about serving size so we chose a few items and waited.
The soup pot came out really quickly (no reason for slow service at a hotpot restaurant since there's no cooking required on their part) and was placed on the convection cook top. Convection-style cooking is the 'it thing' in hotpot restaurants nowadays, ousting the old fashioned gas stoves that ran on cans.
Our assortment of ingredients included: lamb (of course), fish (mum's pick), pig brains (dad's fancy), baby octopus, bok choi, wom bok and pickled lily flower buds.
We also selected 3 dishes of condiments (fresh coriander leaves, Cube's special chili oil and sesame paste) to mix up.
Dad thought the lamb was a bit tough and he said it indicated meat that has been frozen for too long. I thought it tasted pretty good though! I tried a tiny bit of the pig brain but it just tasted like cooked, bland slime to me. Dad thought it was delicious. Mum told him to confine the brain to his side of the pot and to ensure no pieces escaped out of his mesh spoon.
The baby octopus was frozen but once cooked, surprisingly tender. The fish was a tiny plate's worth but also very tasty, especially when dipped in the chili oil. We decided that one plate of vegetables would have been enough and the lily flower buds were a bit unnecessary.
Usually, once you've filled up on cooked hotpot ingredients, you spoon out a bit of soup for yourself (adding sauce if desired). I had about 4 bowls of soup it was sooooo good.
Hotpot is perfect Winter food. I quite liked the meal at the Cube. The atmosphere is quite nice (if not for the emptiness) and the food was as it should be. The only thing is... it worked out quite expensive by the end! All those little plates add up. A lot of the time, you justify dining out by the fact that a chef has prepared the meal for you. That's not really the case with hotpot and we couldn't help but feel that the cost of the meal would have bought a hell of a lot of lovely fresh ingredients that we could have put towards our own hotpot at home. Especially since we have a convection stove too. Ah well, it was still an experience and I did enjoy it.