hot pot restaurants

Where To Find The Best Hot Pot Restaurants In Melbourne?

Melburnians are spoiled for choice with dozens of hot pot, or huǒ guō (火锅), spots around every corner in the food capital of Australia.

Hot pot is less of a dish and more of an experience. Think of it as the Asian version of fondue – a bubbling pot of broth sits in the middle of the table surrounded by platters of meat, seafood and vegetables, all ready to be cooked in a cauldron of soup. The only rule of hot pot is that there are no rules.  

We've done the hard work for you and hunted down Melbourne spots that are heating the hot pot scene. All that's left is to decide which one you'll dive into first.

hot pot restaurants (2)

Order Up at Melbourne's Best Hot Pot Spots

The undeniably carnal high that comes from dropping meat and veg into hot broth powered by gas and flames at the dining table is something many of the world’s people are into. China alone accounts for at least ten distinct varieties of hot pot across its highly nuanced regional gastro-map, but neighbouring countries Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand are also bubbling many of their unique broths.   

In this exercise, we’ve plucked out of the city’s most impressive hot pots from across East Asia and indexed them by country and frenzy factor, with five representing frenzy AF. Wrangle a crew – you’ll generally want at least four – and prepare to get a little messy (and smelly – good smelly) at one of Melbourne’s best. If you're still hunting some of Melbourne's bests, try hitting up our favourite Korean BBQ joints or test your spice levels with Melbourne's hottest dishes.

David's Artisan Hot Pot

  • Order: Half mushroom and half spicy soup base
  • Type: Sichuan/Chongqing hot pot 
  • Frenzy factor: 4

Chongqing and its adjacent Sichuan Province are hot pot grandmasters. Here, specially designed tables are fitted with a sunken hot pot receptacle that houses an ornate steel pot. The pot is often subdivided into at least two (sometimes nine-plus) different broth regions, with the fiery hot mala variety – usually, a beef stock that grunts with tonnes of chillies and Sichuan peppercorns – a must-order. 

Patrons then order plates of raw ingredients off the menu, concoct a custom sauce from the DIY sauce station, and get to business. 

Cartoon pop art covers David’s walls, a cute modern flourish that plays well against the otherwise lantern- and lattice-heavy Sichuan-kitsch design. We ordered a partitioned pot – one side mushroom broth, one side medium spicy mala broth – rolled pork belly, silken tofu strands, beef balls and a variety of vegetables. We do so by scanning a QR code unique to our table through the giant Chinese social media app WeChat. 

The soup is delivered to the table in a plastic cryovac bag, emptied into the pot and combined with a giant heart-shaped mould of oil to create the mala broth – a deeply bovine base that coats all comers with the inimitable lip-quivering hum of the Sichuan peppercorn, and whose rich aroma tends to cling to idle outerwear. Fortunately, David’s has a human-sized deodorising machine that rids you of your stench at the touch of a button as you leave.

We caught David’s in a rare rainy Tuesday lull between lunch and dinner service, but for the most part, you’ll find it heaving with Chinese university students day and night. It’s by no means the cheapest hot pot in the city, but the depth of the mala broth alone justifies the visit. This one is best for Large groups.

No 1 Delicious Hot Pot and BBQ

  • Order: Traditional Beijing lamb pot
  • Type: Beijing hot pot 
  • Frenzy factor: 3.5

Hot pot from the Chinese capital is a markedly lighter affair than that found in and around Sichuan and Chongqing. Traditionally, the broth is lamb-based and tends to be much thinner than its west Chinese equivalent, meaning it is also far less fatiguing – and nowhere near as spicy. It’s also generally served in a fetching copper pot. 

Another feather in the cap of Carlton’s growing regional Chinese food scene, No 1 Delicious Hot Pot & BBQ, is located just south of the University of Melbourne and splits its culinary offerings by floor: Chinese street barbecue (chuan’er) downstairs; unique Beijing hot pot upstairs. 

The exposed-beam, pseudo-warehouse schtick at No 1 gives its enormous floor space a slightly cool edge – not generally analogous with hot pot but wholly welcome – complemented by the thoughtful presentation and quality of the hot pot ingredients.

The small copper pots here mean that each punter must order their vessel and broth, but with five different soup bases, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided you’re dining with sharers. 

We plump for the traditional Beijing lamb hot pot flavoured with tomato and dates and order beef brisket, veggies and what must be Victoria’s collective annual yield of quail eggs. 

The nourishing lamb base is mellow enough to let the quality of the ingredients speak for itself. Still, the highlight at No 1 is its extensive DIY sauce station, replete with beef paste and a basketball-sized bowl of unadulterated crystal MSG.

Guhng The Palace

guhng the palace

  • Order: Seafood jeongol 
  • Type: Korean hot pot 
  • Frenzy factor: 2.5

As far as Korean barbecue joints go, Guhng is lush. Outside, the heritage-listed facade of the McKillop St restaurant looks like a 19th-century tavern, the kind of place where flags of beer are slammed on tables, and food is served by a matronly host.

Inside, the restaurant is more contemporary than its old-timey exterior suggests. Mod-Asian fixtures like red mesh pendant lights shine on the dark brick and original stone walls. The tell-tale brassy-hued exhaust pipes (the golden standard in Korean barbecue-world) hanging over every table look positively futuristic. 

Korean barbecue, at its core, is a communal dining experience, and Guhng makes certain groups are well catered for with their barbecue sets. The Angus set is enough to feed four moderately hungry meat-eaters comfortably. You get a mix of lean and fatty cuts, starting with an evenly marbled Angus cube roll, cut into pieces over a cast iron pot of glowing hot charcoal. 

In a few minutes, the bite-sized pieces of beef on the grill get smoky as the fat melts and sizzles off the coals, and they take it off the heat while the juices are still running. The garlic herb beef tenderloin is best cooked to medium, and the marinade is very mild – it still wants a dip of light sweet soy sauce and chilli from the condiments collection. 

Break up the meat-fest with mixed vegetables and king brown mushrooms, and then it's time for the bulgogi to hit the grill now that the charcoal has gotten extra smoky. The thinly cut beef marinated in sesame oil and sweet soy cooks in no time at all, and a bit of the pickled onion on the tender bulgogi adds a fresh bite to cut through the meat.

The sundubu jjigae hot pot soup is good enough to guarantee a return visit. It’s a spicy soup with silken tofu, mussels, and an egg cracked into the pot just before serving. Pour it over red rice for a standalone meal, or order it as a filling side to the barbecue.

Guhng looks a little fancier than your typical Korean barbecue restaurant, but it's still welcoming, even to big groups who can book the upper rooms for private functions. They also understand that the fun of Korean barbecue is being able to do your grilling if that’s what you feel like doing, but they will happily answer your questions or help out before you set fire to your dinner. 

It’s the kind of place you could take your parents: a little bit impressive but still holding fast to the essential communal atmosphere that makes Korean barbecue so enjoyable.

Yamato

  • Order: Ishikari Nabe (pork belly and salmon fin hot pot) 
  • Type: Japanese hot pot
  • Frenzy factor: 3

A prolific hot pot nation, Japan’s nabe comes in many forms. Shabu-shabu and sukiyaki represent two of the country’s most popular options, the latter a beef-forward pot accompanied by a raw egg for dipping, while chankonabe is a protein-heavy affair that was devised to help Sumo wrestlers gain weight, but when served in regular-sized portions, is not inherently Sumo-y.

Cosy Chinatown hole-in-the-wall Yamato has been ladling stellar nabe for decades. Plastered in Japanese beer and wine ads new and old, the 20-seater offers five nabe varieties: shabu-shabu; sukiyaki; the chankonabe-Esque Yamato nabe; the seafood-heavy Yose Nabe; and the surf‘n’turf collab, Ishikari nabe. 

We opt for the latter, and our pot arrives above a portable gas burner, stuffed snug with a curious assortment of pork belly, fish balls, taro-filled money bags, seafood highlighter, fibrous tofu skin and fatty salmon fin, set among mushrooms of several varieties, vegetables and rice noodles. 

Underscored by a medium-weight miso broth, the Ishikari nabe looks as though it were conceptualised by an early-’70s interior designer on a long creative leash, but is one of the most substantial and satisfying pots in the city. You’ll need a minimum of two diners to the one-pot here. 

Moon Diem Hen

  • Order: Lau de (goat hot pot)       
  • Type: Vietnamese hot pot 
  • Frenzy factor 3.5

Hopping southwest from Japan, Vietnam boasts a proud hot pot culture of its own. Lau de and lau de Bien – goat and seafood hot pot, respectively – are two of the country’s more popular variations. The heady aromatics of the former often balanced out with copious greens and a sharp accompanying sauce.

Hopping southeast from the CBD, Springvale jewel Moon Diem Hen is positioned about as inconspicuous as can be on a lane adjacent to a car park and does both with aplomb. The restaurant is famous for its goat number: a deep pot of mushroom, taro, tofu and crudely hacked hunks of goat meat – plenty of thick skin attached – in a brooding goat stock, accompanied by a plate of greens and coils of thin wheat noodles that are added to the fray at the diners’ discretion but must be rescued 60 seconds after that. 

It’s another richly aromatic experience, but the freshness of the greens and unique zing of the brilliant fermented tofu dipping sauce is enough to balance out the bottomless depth of the mutton. 

Soi 38

Churning out boat noodles by day and firing up the gas burner for Thai barbecue by night, Soi 38 specialises in regional variations of Thai food – if you’re expecting Australian favourites like pad thai or Massaman curry, head elsewhere.

Despite being tucked away in an obscure corner of Melbourne – a concrete car park just a few levels down from the latest iteration of architectural space MPavillion – Soi 38 doesn’t suffer from anonymity. Thanks to the bowls of five-spice powder- and star anise-heavy boat noodles, it’s been delighting office workers since 2015.

 When it started opening up for dinner earlier this year, diners started spilling out into the carpark. We, like them, jump at the opportunity to sample Soi 38’s expanded offerings without having to rush back within the hour. Still, we’d recommend making a booking if you don’t want to spend precious minutes resisting the heady smells from your place in the queue.

We don’t go down the Thai barbecue route on this occasion but share several dishes from the grilled, deep-fried, soup and salad sections alongside either rice or sticky rice. You order via a paper checklist menu that you bring up to the counter once you’re ready. 

The spice levels in Soi 38’s dishes have us reaching for our chilled bottles of Singha. Still, you can alternatively wash down the heat with bottles of Chang or Leo, a curated selection of organic wine, or Thai milk tea if you’re going alcohol-free. 

Start with the Kung chae nam pla, a common Thai drinking snack where raw black tiger prawns are soaked in Thai fish sauce and lime juice and served atop tendrils of bitter melon. It’s an explosion of flavours and textures with every bite – simultaneously fresh, spicy, dense and tart from the chopped, deceptively fiery red chillies and creamy fish roe – and the perfect precursor to heavier dishes on the menu. 

The only dish on the menu to have a ‘recommended’ note next to it is the tom zap beef and tendon soup, and for a good reason – it’s a tamarind-rich, rich soup with a heat that initially hits the tip of your tongue before radiating out to the back of your mouth. 

Eaters will be rewarded with cubes of gelatinous fat and stewed tendon steeped in the flavours of this pleasantly sour, thick broth with origins in Northeast Thailand. 

Don’t go past the grilled menu – the thinly sliced black Angus beef in the crying tiger is melt-in-your-mouth tender. If you’re interested in a bit of trivia, the Thai name for this dish translates to ‘crying tiger’ because the accompanying hot dipping sauce is supposed to bring tears to your eyes, but don’t let that scare you off – Soi 38’s crying tiger sauce packs a punch without causing us pain. 

Also in the grilled section are the equally great Bangkok street food delicacy moo ping (grilled pork) skewers. Thin slices of fatty pork shoulder are marinated in a savoury concoction of fish and soy sauce, threaded onto skewers, grilled over charcoal and brushed with coconut milk for a sweet fragrance. 

For a light reprieve from the meat, we opt for one of Soi 38’s nine papaya salads. The classic tum Thai (otherwise known as som tum), where strands of shredded unripe papaya are interspersed with dried shrimp and peanuts, and the crunch of snake beans and carrots have bursts of cherry tomato punctuating every bite. Like the most famous Thai culinary exports we love, it’s sour, salty and hot – the spice in this shoots straight up our nose but dissipates shortly after. 

We can’t end our meal without sampling Soi 38’s larb, the salad regarded as the unofficial national dish of Laos and eaten a lot in the Isan region of Thailand. It comes in three different iterations, and we choose the larb moo with ground pork heaped over a fresh bed of lettuce. It has everything – the wonderful nuttiness of roasted rice powder, the crunch of sliced red onions, and the delicious acidity of makrut lime and lemongrass. 

Hot tip: save space for dessert, though you may not see it on the menu. The seasonal mango with sticky rice is a surprisingly light denouement to a chilli-rich and carb-heavy meal. Salty fried mung beans scattered amongst sticky rice are a savoury counterpart to the sweetness of the coconut milk and mango. 

With travelling still a pipe dream for the foreseeable future, Soi 38 expertly conjures the energy and vibrancy of a Southeast Asian open-air food court. The crowds packed into its narrow confines attest to its quality and novelty. 

hot pot restaurants

Japanese hotpot (shabu shabu and sukiyaki)

There are two main types of Japanese nabemono (hotpot): sukiyaki and shabu shabu. Momo Sukiyaki & Shabu Shabu is the city’s only dedicated Japanese hotpot restaurant. Shabu bases include soy, konbu, tonkatsu and more; sukiyaki might be rooted in soy or tomato, and there are wildcards like black truffle.

For introverts, WeLive for Hotpot has timber separators and single-serve hotpots. Takumi is better for feasting with friends, thanks to an all-you-can-eat $45 per person menu for a minimum of two.

Southern Chinese hotpot

Hotpots are completely different across China. In the south-eastern coastal province of Guangdong, seafood takes centre stage. Wu Mi Zhou at the top end of Lonsdale Street specialises in mellow and comforting congee hotpots from the region. Yunnan hotpot is different again, using an array of wild mushrooms and flowers and the rice noodles for which the province is famed.

Sichuan is the most familiar Chinese hotpot in Melbourne. Broths are defined by a punch-in-mouth, numbing flavour from Sichuan chillies, known as mala. Butter adds an oily richness to the base, with sesame oil the preferred dipping sauce to curb heat. Dainty Sichuan Hotpot and Panda Hotpot are favourites for a reason.

Mongolian hotpot

Huo Guo (Chinese hotpot) originated in Mongolia. The story goes that somewhere beyond the Great Wall more than 1000 years ago, nomadic Mongolian horsemen used their helmets to simmer the meat in broth over the fire. 

Today, the main distinction is the use of thinly sliced lamb. At Happy Lamb on Exhibition Street, marrow is steeped in the eight-hour broth. There are six bases and a selection of lamb cuts and platters, along with a range of handmade seafood balls and pastes.

Korean hotpot (budae jjigae and jeongol)

There are a handful of Korean hotpots, but the most popular are budae jjigae and jeongol. There are countless varieties of jjigae, but budae jjigae, aka army stew, is usually served over a flame. Jeong sees broth poured over ingredients before they’re simmered and shared.

You can find these dishes at most Korean restaurants in the city. For a mammoth army stew, try Darac on A'Beckett Street. Han Guuk Guan tucked away near the corner of Victoria, and Exhibition Streets, has a huge selection of traditional Korean hotpots, including sundae (Korean blood sausage) and trotters with potato.

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants

Hot pot is a flavorful broth traditionally served inside a large metal pot. The broth is brought to a boil and left simmering for the duration of the meal. Raw ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, are placed into the simmering broth and thus "cooked". 

The cooked pieces are dipped into dipping sauces for additional flavour. Hot pot is considered a main course and is usually served without rice or noodles on the side. Hot pots can be prepared and eaten at home or in a restaurant.

Typical hot pot ingredients include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, vermicelli, sliced potatoes, bean products, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood. 

Raw ingredients are pre-sliced into thin sections that will cook quickly and consistently in the simmering broth, maintained at a gentle boiling temperature. Most raw foods can be cooked in a hot pot, although they may have different cooking times, and must be immersed in the soup and then removed accordingly.

Hot pot can certainly be healthy, provided you choose your ingredients, base soup and dipping sauces carefully to avoid an overdose of sodium, saturated fats, and carbohydrates in your meal. "The sodium content in a typical hot pot meal far exceeds the recommended daily salt intake.

You can use white rice, but noodles are the more popular choice. There are lots of options, including ho fun (wide white noodles), needle noodles (which are transparent and shaped like thick needles), and rice stick noodles (also known as bank pho or fresh pho noodles).

Cold drinks will help temper some of the fiery heat. Dairy drinks, such as yogurt or fermented milk drinks, are great beverage options to consume before and after hot pot.

Hot Pot is generally very unhealthy as its packaged broth contains an extreme excess of fats per serving. Unfortunately, most restaurants are using packaged broths which can exceed 1,500 calories per packet.

Conclusion

Do you want to try something new? Do you want some spice in your life? Melbourne's best hot pot restaurants are the perfect place for that! You can find them all over town. The best ones will be near a big university, so if you're looking for a good time and some spicy food, this is where it's at! But don't worry – they still have lots of traditional dishes as well. 

"Eating hot pot is a great experience and can be an adventurous one too. I have been to many different restaurants, but the best ones are those that offer you a variety of options such as beef, lamb, chicken and pork. The ingredients are fresh, and it's just delicious! Melbourne has some really good restaurants that serve hot pot." 

The blog post then lists the top places in Melbourne where you can enjoy this meal.

Resources:

Melbourne's best hot pots

Order Up at Melbourne's Best Hot Pot Spots

Where to find the best hotpot restaurants in Melbourne

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