Xiangbala Hotpot in Dalry Road, chicken claws anyone?

OK, finally, for everyone who’s been asking about the chicken claws, this is the one! I walk past Xiangbala Hotpot almost every day and through the steamy windows there’s always a sea of Chinese diners and the smell is just divine.  Being big lovers of Chinese food and always up for a little culinary adventure, Strawberry Blonde & I decided to give the restaurant a try.

The Hotpot, with our chosen broths

Each table has it’s own steaming ‘hot pot’ (a big double wok) to which you add your own chosen ingredients to cook. The menu is apparently very authentic Chinese fare and definitely not for the faint hearted! (You’ll soon see why!) It is probably the ‘newest’ dining experience I have ever had and was almost a little daunting.

We were given a laminated menu card and a pen and told to pick 2 different soup bases and then tick as many other ingredients that we would like. Simples, or so we thought! Even choosing the broths took a while as we really had no idea how the whole thing would pull together, we immediately picked Hot & Spicy but in the end just randomly selected ox tail for our other one. Next we needed to select what we wanted to cook in our hotpot, seafood options included Squid, Razor Clams, Razor Clams, Crabsticks, Prawns, Mussels and Fish Balls and the meats, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Tripe, Chicken Claws and Tea Leaf Eggs?? (no idea what these are!) along with noodles and a large selection of vegetables. There is a fixed price of £15 per person for all you can eat.

The 'DIY' menu

The wine list was pretty limited but they kindly allowed us to have our own wine, charging us £5 for corkage. Plum juice also caught SB’s eye so we had a couple of those too.

We selected Crab Sticks, Prawns, Squid, Japanese Fish Balls, Dried Mushroom, Kelp, White Radish, Edible Fungus, raw sliced Beef, Lamb & Pork, cooked soy sauce Beef & chilli Chicken Claws and wide Vermicelli. There are a number of ingredients on a table where you can go to mix your own sauces but seeing we were total novices and very much out of our depth, the waiter offered to make us a standard sauce.

The seafood platter

The steaming hot pot was then placed upon the table, bubbling away and within a very short space of time the waiter returned bearing bowls and platters containing our selections. At this point I think we both realised quite overwhelmed we were by the whole experience and really weren’t quite sure what to do next, which ingredients, which broth, how long to cook them for etc. In the end, after a few tentative attempts and realising this stuff really wasn’t going to cook itself and if we wanted to eat we were going to need to get a move on, we chucked it all in randomly & hoped for the best!

Some things were much more successful than others it has to be said! For instance I don’t think cooking a crab stick in any way improves it and the chicken claws bobbing around reminded me of Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom’s monkey eyeball soup! Also trying to retrieve the cooked food from the vat armed with nothing more than a pair of chopsticks isn’t the easiest, especially if you’re only used to using them occasionally.

ready, steady, cook......

As the novelty wore off I have to say I began to lose the will to live, as much as I love interactive dining experiences this one just wasn’t hitting the spot, not from any negligence on the restaurant’s part, I have to state, but just because it was so overwhelming, hard work and the taste/textures of some of these things were so strange to our palates. I really wanted to like it more but it just wasn’t to my taste.

it had to be done, a close up on the chicken claws

Although still a fairly recent addition to the Edinburgh restaurant scene Xiangbala Hotpot is clearly a winner with the local Chinese community. The decor is bright, think Chinese meets Euro-pop for the music, the staff are friendly and helpful and the experience is one I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a really different dining experience, I would however suggest you take along a strong constitution, and your own wine!

Xiangbala Hotpot, 63 Dalry Road, Edinburgh, EH11 2BZ

Phone: 0131 313 4408

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