By Charles Lam
Boiling Point, a Taiwanese-style hot pot restaurant, held their grand opening this past week, putting an end to their one-month soft opening. Located at Culver and Interstate 5, in the same plaza as Buffalo Wild Wings and Denny’s, the restaurant serves a selection of hot pots, shaved ice and boba tea.
The entrée selection is varied with multiple flavor profiles available and vegetarian-friendly options present. There are seven basic hotpots: the house special stinky tofu, seafood and tofu, beef, lamb, curry fishball, kimchee and the vegetarian tomato soup. Each is served in a single-serving pot kept warm by a small fire and is ready to eat, without the need to cook the ingredients yourself.
Served with either rice or noodles, the serving of food is very generous. At $10.99 per soup at dinner, you get an enormous amount of food. Make sure to come with an appetite or you may find yourself struggling to finish. Each pot is also packed full of add-ons, such as vermicelli, poached egg, cabbage, mushrooms, clams and pork blood. For these with a stomach of iron, additional add-ons can be ordered for the cost of between $0.50 and $3.50 depending on the item.
The flavors are bright and blend well together. The seafood pot was a perfect mix of brininess, from the clams and shrimp, and savory, from the sliced pork, wrapped up in enough spiciness to clear anyone’s sinuses. For those wary of heat, each pot can be ordered without chilly oil. In addition, the enoki mushrooms and tofu skin added an interesting texture to the meal, which was at times chewy, creamy, soft and crunchy.
In addition to the hot pots, Boiling Point also serves boba tea drinks that can hold their own against anything Tapioca Express or Cha for Tea has to offer. As opposed to the creamier drinks from former teahouses, Boiling Point offerings have a much more pronounced tea flavor, leaving the palette cleansed. The milk teas are the perfect way to cut the spiciness of the soups.
The restaurant itself is strangely designed. The entry way opens into an L-shaped dining room full of small tables and undivided booths. The entire color scheme is exceedingly beige, from the completely neutral walls to the wooden tables and dark upholstery seating. Contrasting with the flavor of the food, the décor does not welcome you to eat. The room can also in no way be considered quiet. Snips of conversation can be picked out of the air fairly easily between bars of remixed pop music. Connected to the main dining room are two small rooms that have about five tables each. They are much quieter, yet slightly out of place.
The service at the restaurant is quick and painless, though exceedingly Asian. Water is not giving automatically but is given freely when asked for. The smaller rooms, while out of place, are well staffed with a server present nearly always. Interestingly enough, if you look Asian at all they will speak to you in Mandarin. Even after informing the hostess that I couldn’t understand Mandarin, half the staff still took my order or bid me goodbye in Mandarin.
Boiling Point is a welcome addition to the Irvine area. For around $15 per person, including tax and tip, you get a large amount of very well-flavored food. Though the environment might not be the most exciting and the service is not anything super special, the hotpots definitely make up for any short comings and make Boiling Point a must-eat destination for any Irvine student.