Lao Ma Tou
Lao Ma Tou is one of the largest and busiest hot pot houses in this Yulin neighbourhood, where five of the city’s top hot pot houses can be found within a couple of blocks. During peak times, pedestrians on the opposite side of this street will get a whiff of the distinct scent of Chongqing style hot pot emanating from dozens of bubbling copper pots.
The super efficient host staff whisked us into the dining room. They gave us an English menu, which was handy, but we cross checked it with the Chinese one, which has the popular items marked with a ‘thumbs up’. We asked for their yuanyang pot, and the server came to the table with bags of melted seasoned beef fat that were opened at the table and poured over the base broth. This is to demonstrate that they use fresh and not reused oil. We asked for zhong la, or medium spicy, which was pretty soon bubbling redder than any hot pot we’d ever seen, lava-like. We asked for their shrimp balls, which were excellent both in the spicy and in the mild soup. Their house special beef was great as well. Other highlights included rice cake, potato starch noodles, tofu skin and goose intestine.
The snacks menu was short and sweet; their flatbread is very popular and was being carried around to several tables. We got an order of dumplings, which were very small but very good specimens seasoned zhong shui jiao style with a sweet garlic and sesame topping. The server recommended their plum juice, but we went with our regular dou nai to tame the heat. Watermelon was served gratis at the end of the meal. Booking is definitely recommended; they often have lineups. Cost per head is around 100RMB.
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