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I go walking in my neighbourhood quite a lot.  Often it’s just an excuse to get out of the flat, or I want to listen to some music and not feel lazy.  But a few weeks ago I was walking down my street and passed a store front I’d passed a dozen times.  Only this time, I bothered to look inside…and stopped.  Then I looked at the menu.

It was the newly opened ‘Oryza Hotpot’, a Japanese hotpot restaurant.

Though I enjoy Japanese food, I’d never had the chance to try hot pot, so no way was something like this opening on my street and me not giving it a try.  I told my roommates about it, and we all agreed to give it a shot.  Since I knew I’d be away this Saturday so would miss any usual meal meeting, I suggested we go tonight last week.

One thing I learned once again.  I don’t organise anything. Nobody actually tries to keep to what I plan.  Got approval from everyone, confirmed today, and a few days ago pinned them down to a time (7pm).  During the day, get a text from one of them saying workmates would like to come.  Fine – I go and make the reservation.  Get home; original workmates have changed their plan so a new workmate is coming.  Oh, and roommate-and-friend have just gotten home and started drinking, so can we push the meal back half an hour?

I sigh somewhat, but go to the restaurant and amend the numbers and time.  As I get home, in comes the last of the roommates…who admits he’s completely forgotten about it and made plans with some friends, so backs out completely.  Then just trying to get them out the door…no wonder I never organise anything, I can’t believe the stress involved!  But out the door we went, and headed out to give hotpot a try.

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Hotpot is basically a soup/stew where you cook the ingredients yourself.  You first pick a soup base, then the ingredients you want to cook.  The soup is heated/boiled on a hot plate on the table, and you place the ingredients inside for cooking.  The two vegetarians went for a veggie platter, two of the others went for a small selection with prawns, and I did a pick and mix including tofu and beef.

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This is probably the most fun you can have with sharing food short of making it yourself.  I was a solo eater, but the other four split bowls and seemed to enjoy it a lot.  I loved putting all the combinations and dipping sauces together to try different things.  The choice is pretty wide too – you could have everything from scallops to lamb to tofu to fish balls, along with all number of noodles and vegetables.  Meat was cooked in about 30 seconds, while the veg needed a few minutes – so you were never really waiting once the food started showing.  Course, the more you picked the more expensive it was – the vegetarians went for a platter that brought their split price shooting up…but they were still eating when the rest of us had finished.

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While they were finishing off their main meal, the topic went to desserts, and two of us ended up having mochi, while another 2 tried different desserts.  Shaved ice and ice cream topped with ‘macha’.  Unfortunately I remembered after they had ordered and received their desserts that macha means green tea, and isn’t particularly sweet.  Neither of them enjoyed their dessert, and hit up the supermarket for M&M’s afterwards.

Sadly, the one downside to the meal was the staff.  They’re clearly not used to how the restaurant runs so it’s very slow service.  Not many people know how the system works, and the instructions aren’t always clear.  Plus the wait between desserts, or waiting for the bill was exceptionally long.  We were in there for over 2 hours, and when you consider how quick it is to cook your own food, most of that time was waiting for ingredients or desserts/bill.  Despite that though, highly recommend trying a hotpot restaurant – don’t know if I can really afford to do it often, but I like knowing the option’s there.

Oryza Hotpot is a spinoff restaurant of the original Orzya Sushi in the city – supposedly one of the best Japanese restaurants in town, so there’s talk of taking everyone there one time.  Hopefully next month – don’t know how I’d be able to afford another meal out this month…

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