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A CBD sushi train for hot pot.

Hot pot. Is it Thai or Japanese? Do you just put all the things in? How much is too much? Well, before you get too excited at Haymarket's do-it-yourself Thai Hot Pot (which incorporated Japanese food, by the way), we recommend reading the house rules — because there are quite a few guidelines one must be aware of before sitting down to eat.

You'll learn quickly. When you walk down the stairs into this neat basement restaurant, you'll instantly spot the impressive mechanism that looks like a sushi train. The grace of gliding miniature dishes will suck you right in, and so it's here that you will accept your dining fate; the two-lane conveyor belt of mystery goodies circulating between the black granite tables is just too good to pass up.
 But once seated, you'll realise the tables are set up with hot pot burners and that the sushi train is not a sushi train at all, but rather a hot pot train. Yes, a hot pot train.

So what do you do now? Well, you choose how you want to order. There is an a la carte menu on offer, but what you really come here for is the $29.90 all-you-can-eat buffet, which includes the sushi bar, hot bar, dessert bar, soft drinks and iced teas as well as unlimited access to the novelty train for 1 hour and 20 minutes (as house rule number eight states). On that note, rule number two is also important: one shall not be greedy, or one will be charged extra. So while it's hard to resist the urge to want to grab everything at once, it's best to pace yourself so you don't burn out too quickly.

The cold bar is a good place to start. Offering perfectly lined sushi, nigiri and uramaki, here you can grab a piece of each and then add as much, or as little, soy sauce, wasabi and ginger as you like. This gets things off to a good start — so when you're ready to move onto the hot bar, you might be left a little disappointed. While the thought of stacking your plate up with endless pieces of fried fish tofu, vegetarian spring rolls, prawn crackers and chicken wings seems like a good idea, but by the time we get to it, the 'hot' things were unfortunately only at room temperature. However, if you're a fan of Asian condiments, the sauce station will impress. With everything from chilli sauce and garlic to coriander and sugar, there are enough saucy toppings to jazz up any meal whether it's hot or cold.

When you're done with the entrees, it's time to get your hot pot on. The eager waitstaff will offer you two choices of broth: a classic tom yum that fills the room with a fresh kaffir lime fragrance, or a milder chicken-based soup. But if you can't decide, then you're in luck — there's a divider in the centre of the pot, which allows you to order both at the same time. Once the broths are hot and bubbling, it's time to start selecting ingredients off the train. If you're vegetarian you can stick to things like noodles, Asian greens, eggs and vegetables, but if you're willing to get into the array of meats, then the fish balls, prawns, baby clams and pork belly will be your jam. Place the ingredients individually, or all at once, into the pot, let it cook for a few seconds and then scoop out into your bowl. Then you eat on repeat until your heart's content. And don't worry if your broth is running low — the waitstaff are waiting in the wings with teapots in hand ready to top you up.

If you can still manage to fit dessert in — an impressive feat where all-you-can-eat is involved — a scoop of vanilla ice cream with watermelon and oranges from the dessert fridge will refresh your palate without sending your stomach into overdrive. One last tip: to make the most out of this eating experience (which is not all too common in Sydney), we recommend going to Thai Hot Pot during peak times when the hot pot plates are regularly replaced and the dishes are most likely to be at their freshest.

Note: Thai Hot Pot is currently closed for renovations and will open again on February 20, 2017. 

Published on February 09, 2017 by Lara Paturzo

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