Beijing’s glam hot pot spot
Hot pot is undoubtedly the best-loved winter dish in northern China, and there is no shortage of “dunk and dip” restaurants in Beijing, but Red Bowl at Rosewood Beijing has taken a refreshingly innovative approach to this popular do-it-yourself dining experience.
Yes, it gets the basics right with your choice of soup broths and a wide range of fresh, ready-to-cook ingredients, but Red Bowl has added upscale sashimi and Australian prime cuts; a hip bar pouring custom cocktails, craft beers and wines that pair devilishly well with spice; youthful servers in casual black tees; graphitized brick walls; and a hot playlist to boot.
The first step when dining here is to choose your soup stock, which includes the austere Beijing Traditional made with spring water, ginger and leek; the standard Spicy Sichuan (it’s medium spicy); and more unusual concoctions like Wild Mushroom or Black Chicken Feet and Rose Leaves. The soups mostly exude a clean, healthy taste and aroma, not as heavily seasoned as local hot pot spots.
There are two soup sizes; the smaller suits single diners while the larger is good for two or more. Can’t decide? Go for the yuanyang option — it’s a partitioned bowl so you can choose two different soup stocks.
The menu at the Beijing restaurant only starts to shout fine-dining when you hit the seafood portion. Expect upscale options like Australian rock oysters, lobster, geoduck clam, abalone and tiger prawns. The combo meat plates represent good value, and you can pair up locally sourced Shandong beef rolls with Inner Mongolian sheep in various thinly sliced forms, or splurge on marvelously marbled Australian wagyu sirloin.
For top-to-tail enthusiasts, tendon, tripe, tongue, bone marrow and brain all make an appearance, too. If that sounds a bit barbaric, there’s a whole page of tofu, vegetables and mushrooms to trick out your pot.
Dipping sauces are included, and once everything is served, you cook the food yourself by scalding it in the bubbling soup (servers are on hand to school the uninitiated).
Set beside the hotel in an adjoining building, Red Bowl feels like a glam, underlit cocktail bar. Only the cleverly concealed hot plates on the tables reveal this is indeed a hot pot restaurant. The dimly lit space is all dark woods accented by sultry reds.
Hot pot is very demanding on table space, with the large soup cauldron, all the ingredients and the dunking sauces leaving little room for anything else. As such, diners in groups of three or more should request one of the larger tables at the side.
A long brick bar pours locally inspired cocktails in party pitcher size, like the Red Bowl gin and tonic which adds goji berry and star anise to the standard gin and tonic. You’ll also find well-made classics and an admirable number of craft beer draft pulls from the local (Slow Boat Brewery) to the international (Kentucky IPA).
Continuing the nightlife theme, four-liter beer towers are available with your chosen draft, or for a more civilized tipple, a wine list (heavy on the reds) has been put together by the Rosewood sommeliers to select those more fruity, sassy wines that can stand up to the spicy flavor assault of hot pot. In short, there are more than enough drinks options to make a night of it.