Modesty is one of the traditional virtures the great sage Confucius advocated. Although a great scholar, Confucius admonished his students, “When walking in the company of three, there must be one I can learn from”. To Confucius modesty and humility are required qualities for a society to sustain itself while pride will lead to destruction. The typical example of the modesty is demonstrated by the host to his visitors. He will apologize for the ill-preparation and small quantity of his food, which turns out to be sumptuous banquet. And the modesty is also shown when the Chinese accept compliments. They always respond to compliments with “Nali, nail.(literally where? Where?)” – figuratively meaning, “I have done nothing to deserve your compliment.” Noodles and Rice Café website “About” page quotes, “Just a Nice Place with Great Asian Food at a Reasonable Price.” In true Chinese fashion completely opposite. Let’s put aside the Hong Kong style sampler menu with noodles, rice, soups, and BBQ. I tasted one item, BBQ Chicken from that menu, it blew me away. Let’s talk about the Mini Hot Pot Menu.
Where else in Orlando can you find a Hot Pot Restaurant, much less a Mini Hot Pot restaurant? I am told there might be a few, but I’ve never really come across any. Why am I in the dark about this? Or maybe, this is the first? I described hot pot in a previous post. This restaurant offers individual hot pots. The concept is the same but instead of sharing with the entire table, you get to have it all to yourself. I would imagine then, that the rules about keeping a clean ladle in the pot for stirring and serving would not apply. However, there is nothing to say that the table can’t share with you.
Noodles and Rice Café took over the old Blue Bistro spot along Mills Av. in the now full fledged artsy Mills50 area. Being along Mills Av, parking is always tricky, you can park on the road or look for side streets and behind buildings. As you enter there is an open counter that appears as counter service, but really it is an open kitchen. You can step up and chat with the friendly chefs to see how things are really done. Watch out though there is hot steam from boiling noodles. To the right is the greeter podium. If you came this far without a reservation, too bad. I’ll strongly advise you to make a reservation before going.
There a few hot pot tables. When these tables are occupied the wait could be long. On the four tops when there are two people the other two cook tops are vacant. Great way to make new friends would be to invite people who are waiting to your table. Or not. The hot pot area is surrounded by half walls and there is a divider between the eight tables. So if you are seated in the front four tables, you have to walk all the way around and to the back for the sauce bar. Not sure about that divider.
Our server came over and offered a drink order, we choose green tea. She went over the ordering system and we were left to make selections. Naturally with all the BBQ items hanging in the showcase I wanted a piece of something. BBQ Chicken was available. The chicken was tender, sweet and juicy. We decided on Szechuan and Beef Broth. Szechuan was aptly spicy with great depth and heat. Beef was light and tasted like a pho. The server placed our broth on the cook top and turned it on to 180 degrees. We were instructed that if it started to boil over reduce the temperature to 140. This being induction cooking the results were immediate and constant.
We ordered Beef, lamb, Daikon, Enoki Mushrooms, Taro, Napa Cabbage, Cuttle Fish, and Beef Tendon Ball. All of these items were fresh. The sauce bar was a combination of many things.
Vegetables go into the pot first, then roots, noodles, meats and seafood. As the cooking begins this is where the action gets interesting. Fishing goodies out of the broth is fun and challenging if your chopstick skills are not up to par. They’ll provide a fork and ladle.
Hot pot dining is meant to be enjoyed in a group. Throw caution to the wind and try some things. If it is not cooked to your liking, put it back in the pot. If you happen to not like something, no big deal, the portions range from $1 – $4. Chalk it up to beginners luck and try something else. Hurry up and get over to this place, because when everyone figures out this place exist, the wait will be very long.