Authentic Hot Pot Ramen – great name! Because they strive to do what the tin says on the tin, they could also be called “one of the most dazzling restaurant experiences in Bristol”, “the best noodles you’ll eat all year” or “perhaps It’s only worth going when you’re full.”
Authentic Hot Pot & Hand-Pulled Noodles (AHPAHPN) looks like a converted conference room. There’s no subdued lighting or smooth soundtrack here, but the crowds gathered around the steaming broth are enough to set the mood.
Usually my reviews are more of a critique than a how-to, but from the chaos that enveloped us the moment we stepped through the gates, I felt I should offer some guidance to those following in our footsteps.
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We were shown to our table by a boy who looked like he just got back from school. I really think he’s still wearing his uniform under his puffer jacket. He’s adorable, completely clueless, and obviously one of the family, and I hope he gets paid.
The QR code on the table can order appetizers, you can choose whatever you want, as long as you are ready to eat spicy sauce, and there are ramen dishes, but there is no sign of hot pot.
As it turns out, trying to order the aptly named dish at Authentic Hot Pot and Hand-Pulled Noodles is as easy as driving down Bristol’s cycle lanes or making a doctor’s appointment. Despite successfully ordering one, I still can’t tell you how it’s done; we went to the noodle counter about three times before we were sure they’d bring one over.
Another teenager was dispatched from the kitchen to walk us through the “sauce” station and stocked fridge. On the way back to our table, we looked enviously at another table’s platter of raw meat, only to return to the counter for the fourth time to ask if we could have those too.
Once served, the fondue is served on a heated plate in the middle of the table, which turns the fondue into a rolling foam. We filled a metal tray with ingredients from the fridge, school cafeteria style.
Our pork belly appetizer – you guessed it, spicy sauce – was served around the same time as the hot pot. It was room temperature, fatty and delicious, but totally unnecessary; dwarfed by the size of our hotpot and tray of buffets of vegetables, tofu and meat.
It’s fun to look back at a restaurant where you cook for yourself. I can tell you about the quality of the ingredients (large prawns, but the lobster balls definitely don’t contain any lobster), I can tell you about the taste of the broth (good. when you add garlic, coriander and scallions) but in the end if The beef was overcooked and the mushrooms turned mushy in your mouth – that was your fault.
The wide variety of ingredients covers everything from tripe to tofu, and the broth is warm but just the right amount of spiciness, with a hint of umami.
The beef and pork rolls we ordered were translucent; they were thinly sliced. They are cooked in a steaming sauce and become tender and juicy in seconds. Much more dangerous, and mild enough to convince yourself repeatedly that you can manage one more.
The hand pulled noodles are served from the counter, made by the chef himself, and put directly into our hot pot. Absolutely no concern for demos or service agreements – I love it. It doesn’t get fresher than this.
There were so many things vying for our attention, but the noodles won.
Every now and then, you try something that deepens your understanding of food. Something that changes the way you think about an ingredient or a dish. A fairly basic example, but using broccoli as an example. I grew up cooking broccoli (not quite, but it’s a popular side dish). I don’t think it matters, whether it’s here or there.
But when I first baked it – wow. It’s like a whole different vegetable. Now I love it. I eat it all the time. When I tried these hand-pulled noodles—the first time I tried noodles this fresh—I could feel the neurons connecting upstairs.what kind of noodles is this able yes. Fun bouncy, chewy, delightfully uneven ingredients. Not perfect at all.
Some people don’t like restaurants where you cook your own food. This is a valid argument, if you go to a steakhouse and have to cook your own steak, how much are you going to pay? However, with hot pot, especially the all-you-can-eat one, it feels like it’s worth the money.
I’m unlikely to make hot pot at home, let alone make all kinds of things in it like AHPAHPN. Yes, there are some things that take minutes to cook, and many more that disappear into the spicy red swirl, only to be rediscovered when they’re almost saturated and long past optimal osmosis. But it’s very sociable. so interesting. It allows for dialogue, commentary, competition — “get your chopsticks off my meatballs!”
Usually in our reviews we put prices next to everything for you to make your own judgment on value, but I can’t do that here because I don’t know how much anything costs. I can tell you we paid £80 for everything, which probably included unlimited soft drinks.
It’s not cheap, but then again, if you don’t add beef and pork like we did, and appetizers, it’s a great deal for two, especially if you’re hungry.
AHPAHPN is not for everyone, but I sincerely hope you give it a try.
Authentic Hotpot and Ramen, Thomas Lane, Redcliffe, BS1 6JG
All photos: Meg Houghton-Gilmour
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