In a city where ‘the new’ governs every move you make, this wintry season the Mandarin Oriental’s garden is the chic address. It’s set with three canopied, curtained and heated private dining spaces – where the concept of a delicious hot pot is the new dining experience. And as Paris unfailingly promises, you can add the word ‘romantic’.
This famed Chinese dish – meaning fire (huo) pot (guo) – is loved and adored for the fun and conviviality of cooking your own food with friends. It’s the most sociable of all dining, a kind of culinary do-it-yourself where the chef has chopped, shredded, sliced and prepared simply everything for your gastronomic journey.
In principal you could say it’s the ‘Chinese fondue’, eaten throughout the winter and especially during the Lunar New Year holiday, which is January 28 in 2017.
Of course at the Mandarin Oriental this is no ordinary hot pot – it’s a world away from the dish that has it origins in Chongqing in China, where it’s highly spiced with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
In Paris your experience starts when you enter the private dining room (offered a knee rug) and discover that two large copper tureens are set on the table. They’re steaming with oodles of chicken broth. Your waiter quickly arrives with a tray of traditional, tiered bamboo baskets containing the raw hot pot ingredients. It’s visually mesmerising with a seemingly unlimited choice of seafood, meat and vegetables. He sets these on the table surrounding the hot pots.
The basket of meat and fish contains succulent black tiger prawns, seabream filets, cuttlefish sliced into a fine tagliatelle, prawn ravioli, scallops, chicken morcels and beef meatballs. The second basket has vegetables - tofu, lotus roots, Chinese radish, Chinese cabbage, 4 kinds of mushrooms including Enoki and Shitake, egg and rice noodles.
Each diner’s place setting has two long-handled mesh scoops for cooking – these elegantly bypass the tradition of everyone putting their chopsticks (or forks) repeatedly into the hot pot. You choose your own food – plunging each of your selections into the hot pot and cooking fish and meat first and, a few minutes later, the vegetables. It takes 3-4 minutes to cook any item of food. The dishes are accompanied by a host of aromatic dipping sauces including spicy chilli and peanut.
The Mandarin Oriental’s hot pot plays to the rising cult of healthy living – since everything is astonishingly fresh (yes, they grow their own herbs on the rooftop) and is distinctly free of fat! And while chefs around the world are racing into the future on one hand, this experience borrows from a 200 year-old Chinese tradition. So you can sup for three hours – and feel exhilarated.
Mandarin Oriental, 251 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001
Lunch (12.30-2.30) and dinner (7.30-11pm)
Reservations required 24-hours in advance
Set Price: 75€
Bookings: +33(0) 1 70 98 74 00