I’ve never personally had the desire to have hotpot alone but apparently, it’s huge in China. One of the leading Chinese hotpot restaurants that offers this solitary dining experience is Xiabu Xiabu. After opening over 1,000 (!) outlets across China, they have taken their brand international to the relatively reliable shores of Singapore.
This trailblazing restaurant is located very conveniently on the ground floor of the Lazada One building on Bras Basah Road. There is both indoor and outdoor dining but the open-air section was receiving the final touches when I visited last week.
Decor-wise, it is neat and tidy. Comparisons to Haidilao came to my mind when I entered; Xiabu Xiabu is bright and casual while Haidilao sports softer lighting and is more intimate.
What I tried at Xiabu Xiabu
One of the first things I noticed at the other tables was that Xiabu Xiabu’s circular pots have a 2-in-1 design. This is because, no matter what soup base you order, they will also give you their signature Mushroom Soup.
I consider myself the hotpot queen— okay, just princess— and I had never had a soup base forced upon me. Just the idea immediately made me sceptical. Extra soup? Why, I never!
For the main soup base, I ordered my favourite: Tomato Soup Base. My dining partner asked for Golden Sauerkraut Soup Base. Noob.
A complete set comes with the default mini soup base, the soup base you select, a huge vegetable platter (but we spotted some beef balls and mussels), your choice of protein set, condiments, dessert and a standard drink (choice of either Da Hong Pao Tea or Aged Pu Er Tea). Note, they serve hotband cold teas, no fizzy soft drinks.
Our orders arrived and I peeked suspiciously at the brown mushroom one. All my reservations crumbled as soon as I took a sip. It’s almost embarrassing to admit but the concoction was super!
This wonderful base is made from stir-fried King Trumpet mushrooms, Straw mushrooms and Blaze mushrooms, among others.
Can you imagine how good the mushroom base actually is? It overcame the negative mental bias I had and then went on to completely blow me away. Even the Golden Sauerkraut base turned out to be amazing.
Xiabu Xiabu gets its bases 80% on target. Minus 20% as the Tomato soup base turned out to be slightly diluted in terms of flavour (I prefer mine to be super rich).
For meat, I ordered the Popular Beef Set (S$28). There are 3 choices here: 100g of USDA Choice Shortplate, 140g of Australian Oyster Blade or 140g of Australian Beef Thin Flank.
I was delighted with my selection of the USDA Choice Shortplate. The meat was superbly tender and full of flavour.
My dining partner asked for the Signature Chicken Set (S$28) that is 200g of boneless chicken drumstick. I frowned at his too-basic choice but when I tried the chicken, I was surprised to find that it was especially good.
Wow, this Xiabu-squared was really subverting my expectations here.
Noodle fans, you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s a selection of noodles included as part of your set meal. Pick from Spinach Noodles, Carrot Noodles, Udon, Bean Vermicelli and Instant Noodle. It’s unlimited… so go crazy!
One thing that did not change was my apathy for bubble tea. From what I could tell from the other diners, those drinks are more than fine. Me, I prefer the feel of ice-cold fizz on my tongue between gulps of hot soup any day of the week.
I got a semblance of that from the dessert machine. It’s almost a version of ice kacang, with shaved ice (you grind it yourself!) all the syrups and condiments you like, as well as little jelly pieces.
The gem of the dessert is the chewy raisins, though. Those little fellows are divine!
Xiabu Xiabu is entering a Singapore hotpot market that is rather crowded. I don’t see its one-person hotpot offerings seeing spectacular response. However, it does many things right, too. Chief among them is the Mushroom soup base— I am a believer!
My only gripe with this place is that the selection of condiments is slightly underwhelming (there’s no chilli paste to be found, and a couple of my other favourites). Hopefully they’d have added more by my next visit!
Expected damage: S$28 – S$40 per pax
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