PARSIPPANY — If you were a Mongolian horseman 800-900 years ago, under the tutelage of Genghis Khan, cold, and hungry, you probably used your ornate iron and leather hardened helmet as a vessel to simmer some broth over an open fire, then threw in some chunks of meat, probably mutton or horse, to get fortified so you were ready to attack your next village. The origins of Hot Pot can be traced back to those roots and have since subsequently spread throughout China. In fact, if you happen to be walking down a street in some cities in China, or throughout Asia, you may find Hot Pot eateries as popular as our own fast-food burger joints.
In the summer of 2016, Parsippany became the home to just such an eatery, offering Asian fusion cuisine with the opening of the V-YAN Hot Pot & BBQ, located in the Arlington Plaza right off Route 46 Westbound. V-Yan translates to “a party” according to our server. Some may remember that location as the old Blockbuster store. Although Hot Pot has its origins in China, the BBQ this restaurant offers refers to the popular Korean cuisine method of grilling meats, fish, chicken, pork, etc. at the dining table itself. I would guess the Korean barbecue (gogi-gui) origin story goes back as far as Hot Pot’s and is assuredly just as interesting, but it really only became popular in its current style, complete with plenty of Western influences, since the 1980s. If you are unfamiliar with Korean BBQ, it is quite dissimilar from the low and slow style of American BBQ you may be used to. Instead of large cuts of meat, like brisket and ribs, which are slowly smoked, Korean BBQ is centered around pieces of various meats and chicken that are skewered and grilled.
Since Hot Pot, sometimes called Steamboat, is a social, communal, interactive feast that is best experienced with friends and family, I invited a couple of foodie friends to join me for my first visit to this kind of cuisine, and I was looking forward to this new dining experience. And, although hot pot, steaming cuisine is traditionally enjoyed during the coldest months of winter, we chose to time our visit while in the middle of a summer heatwave. As it turns out, it did not matter, the restaurant was comfortably air-conditioned and we had a great time.
When you arrive, you are met with a very architecturally appealing, glass-front building, standing apart in the Arlington Plaza, and on entering you encounter a surprisingly spacious, modern, bright, and upscale vibe. A cordial, Key Lin, who was working the front counter, was immediately welcoming and ensured our group was immediately led to our table. The interior was impressive, laid out thoughtfully with black counter comfortably separated tables, bright calming colors throughout, clusters of bright overhead hanging lamps, and soft acoustic music playing in the background. There are also dining sections set apart along the sides of the dining room that appeared to be a little more private and perfect for a more intimate get-together. The ambiance was very cool, relaxed, comfortable, and casual.
The tables are set up with individual heaters, that can be set from low to surprisingly high, for each diner to boil their own chosen Hot Pot broth (there is a variety of broths to choose from) as they like, and in the center of the table is a grill for the group to cook the BBQ. After a very brief training session from our helpful, patient, friendly, and attentive server, Jenny, we had it down like experts. LOL. As advertised, it was a hugely enjoyable, social get-together, where everyone at the table participated in the preparation of the food that we shared which included a large array of meats, fish, and vegetables that were there for our choosing.
You can order individually either the Hot Pot or the BBQ, or you can order a combination of both, which I did on my visit. The combo dinner is $32.99 per person, but in my opinion, was well worth it considering the variety and a large amount of food that you can order. Did I mention you can order an unlimited amount of food and it is also a BYOB?
I made sure to bring along some Lucky Buddha beer, while my friend found a traditional Korean wine. Make note, your table must match the option picked by everyone in your group, but you can individually choose from a variety of soup bases. As usual, I went with the hot and spicy. Since the food is brought out for the entire table to share this policy does make sense.
There are literally multiple pages of mouthwatering food options to choose from, some for your now boiling hot pot soup base and others for barbecuing. My group was not hesitant to choose an ample amount of premium beef, lamb, pork, pork belly, sliced chicken, shrimp, squid, calamari, fish fillet, clam, crab meat sticks, mussels, oysters, dumplings, lobster ball, and Fuzhou Fish Balls, just to start. And do not forget the Udon and assorted other noodles to thicken your personalized hot pot broth. Nope, we were not shy about ordering, and reordering and our attentive servers continued to bring it out as quickly as we ordered it. It was a truly fun and entertaining learning experience deciding on how long to cook and prepare our chosen items. You will find that this cooking interaction is a big part of what really enhances this lively dining experience. Note: the cooking time is very quick in both the hot pot and on the grill, but you will figure it out very quickly.
I found this a great venue to visit, and certainly enjoyed the entire dining experience. I was previously unfamiliar with Hot Pot, but it only took minutes to get comfortable and feel right at home, and the servers are more than willing to help guide you along with any questions or cooking suggestions. All the assorted meats, fish, chicken, and veggies were fresh, tasty, and of high quality.
There is also a self-serve sauce bar available in the rear of the restaurant complete with a large variety of sauces, marinades, and herbs that you can mix and match to enhance your meal as you like. I found the hot chili sauce, along with some scallions, an excellent dipping selection. And, for a perfect ending to this feast, do not forget to serve yourself some cool, smooth, and delicious ice cream for dessert. It is included in the price and there is a large selection of flavors to choose from, and you can have all you want. Personally, I liked the pistachio. That is if you can still eat any more at that point. One of my guests could not.
If you have not yet tried this type of cuisine, I would recommend getting together with a friend or two, a group, your family, and giving it a try. Do not be hesitant to try something new. I think you will suddenly become a fan and will want to add this cuisine to your future outings. The food is flavorful and delicious, it is reasonably priced, and it is a lot of fun preparing your dinner together. Great for a family get-together, the kids will love it. Do not know what took me so long to get here!
As always, please continue to support all our local businesses and restaurants. 火鍋 고기구이
Large Parking Lot, BYOB, Dine-In, No Delivery, Vegan Options; Reservations for Large Groups
V-Yan Hot Pot & BBQ, 796 Route 46, Parsippany; Located in Arlington Plaza; (973) 299-8666. www.vhotpot.com