Hi, this is Joe and Phyo! Today, we’re gonna be sharing our experience at Da Yu Hot Pot. We went there in the last weekend of October, when the weather was becoming much cooler in New York so it was the perfect hot pot season. Da Yu is one of the newest hot pot places in Manhattan Chinatown, joining the likes of all you can eat places like Hometown Hotpot, Little Sheep Mongolian and 99 Favor taste, but more so the fancier a la carte places such as Tang Hotpot and Zhen Wei Fang.
Da Yu Hot Pot is a brand from Chong Qing, which recently opened a branch in Manhattan. Chong Qing is a river city with more than 30 million people in Central China. It is also the originator of the Chinese hot pot. The exact origin is hard to trace, but according to historical records, hot pot was first invented as a type of "fast food" -- laborers who worked along piers would pick up intestines left out by butchers, and then use improvised pots to cook the meats, and dip the meats with self-made spices and sauce.
It is not until the Qing Dynasty that hot pot became a fancy dish. Qian Long -- an influential Emperor, fell in love with hot pot and often hosted feasts with hundreds of hot pots. From then on, this ceremonial warming dish became popular all over China. Now the popularity has arrived to New York.
When we entered the restaurant, we were not surprised to see a group of people waiting for tables. We were expecting a line, so we have made a reservation even though there were only the two of us. We were seated pretty much immediately after we let the hostess know about our reservation, and our server welcome as with a shout of “Hello! Welcome to Da Yu Hot Pot!” in Mandarin Chinese.
There were some appetizers: fruits, cherry tomatoes and boiled peanuts, as well as the sauce bar for an additional $2.99 per person. I tried the mushroom soup base, which came with a decent amount of both dried and fresh mushrooms. The flavor was pretty good, but not powerful enough to impart some flavor on the meats that are cooked in it.
For our main hot pot ingredients, we ordered the seafood platter, as well as yam noodles, fresh tofu skin, vegetable sets and the banana pancakes. The items were beautifully presented and tasted very fresh, but the quantity was small and I feel they were not good value for the price, especially the seafood platter.
When we went there, the place was still pretty new so the manager came around to each table and asked how our experience was and what they could improve on. The server also told us that there was no rice, but the manager insisted that we could have ordered it.
Our final verdict for Da Yu is that it’s a good place to try out, but not a place that we will return to in a while given the price, and the plethora of options out there.
As we walked back along Chinatown, we saw restaurants offering every kind of cuisine from Royal-Beijing style to Cantonese to Shanghainese. Which cuisine will win? We don’t know. The old saying suggests: “One man's meat is another man's poison.” But food competition is not a zero sum game. Hot pot -- a food invented hundreds of years ago -- will definitely survive and thrive.