Story by Harvey I. Barkin | Photos by Gary De Guzman
DALY CITY – When the unknown Mongol first used his helmet to simmer broth and drop pieces of meat and vegetables into the concoction, he didn’t realize that people all over the world would still be doing it a thousand years later.
But now they use hot pots.
Well into the age of social media, hot pot is still trending as a communal network. If you spent a day of chatting, posting, blasting, exchanging photos, try good old fashion face-to-face conversation with family and friends over hot pot. As it simmers, you’ll also relish the pot boilers that your assembled party has to offer. Soup’s hot and the tales around the table sizzle. A hot treat that you can only share with family and close friends.
The recipe is traditional and you really don’t have to hire a chef if you open a hot pot restaurant.
But at Four Seasons Exquisite Hot Pot at St. Francis Square, General Manager Ted Hui said they do hire an experienced chef. “In some hot pot restaurants, they usually buy powdered soup base from a vendor, then dilute the broth. Here, we make ours from scratch.” Hui said their chef learned his craft in mainland China before he amassed experience in different Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
Just in case you think Four Seasons is seasonal, it is not. Of course, hot soup in cold Daly City is always welcome. But this is one hot pot spot where there’s a chef who can do more than just boil soup.
Their best-sellers are the curry-coconut and Northern China or Szechuan (with 10 to 15 herbs) soup bases. Although they serve about nine different soup bases. Pesto-, tomato- and miso-based soups are also available for those who prefer their hot pot not peppery hot.
Their ingredients need to be fresh. Their beef, for instance is special order and usually cost double than the usual per pound. They also have tendons and pork blood for those who crave exotic fare. Your choice of two soup bases, different meat, fowl and fish, assorted vegetables and mushrooms, plus appetizers for under $30 per head is reasonable even if you have 90 minutes to enjoy it.
Four Seasons Exquisite Hot Pot also has excellent accommodations. In many hot pots, the stove takes an extra seat at the table and eats up space. For safety, you can’t have tables too close together. Four Seasons can take in up to less than 200 diners at a time.
But at Four Seasons they have six – count them – six rooms for individual parties. Their smallest private party room can hold 10; their largest, up to 48. A minimum of $300 keeps your party going the whole night in the small room. And yes, there are drinks other than soda to keep the spirits up.
And this is state-of-the-art hot pot because there are Karaoke systems in the private party rooms. Their directory of songs is extensive. If it’s not in the system, they can get it from the cloud.
With fire in the belly and passion in the heart, you might discover that the American idle you took for granted is the next idol. This might also be one time when abundant food lulls you to consider some friends or relatives have, er, golden throats.
Small wonder, the booking is tight. You might wait weeks just to get your party in. But the parking space is ample so when you do get booked, friends and family members from all over don’t have to drive around before sitting down to your party.
Their peak hours in the winter is from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; in the summer, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Busiest days are Fridays and Saturdays. But Hui said Daly City isn’t as predictable as the cold weather – there are week days that start slow and then suddenly becomes a full house. Truly, a hot pot spot for all seasons.
The restaurant is not a franchise of the Viking group that owns several Four Seasons restaurants in Manila. Four Seasons Exquisite Hot Spot opened towards the end of January this year and is now only hitting its stride. Hui said they’re finding that most of their return customers tend to be Chinese and Filipino with extended families.