Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot (Old Liu’s Hotpot City)

Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot (Old Liu’s Hotpot City), 2972 Gallow Road, Falls Church, VA, 703-560-6868 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Don Rockwell]

Otherwise known as The Great Leap Forward, Fairfax style. It is located on Gallows Rd., between Rt.29 and 50, the core info is here, and a very reliable source sends me the following review:

    The old Sichuan restaurant a few doors down from Great Wall–I think it was called Peking Village–which used to be there has been replaced by a place called “Uncle Liu’s Hotpot.” It’s owned by HK Palace and, as the name implies (and, unlike HK Palace, it’s Chinese name is the same as the English name, though it’s really Old Liu’s Hotpot City), it specializes in hotpot. We were very excited before even going in, because, while a few Sichuan places offer hotpot (the defunct place up in Gaithersburg that was a Hui-Sichuan restaurant; China Canteen; Great Wall Szechwan if you let them know in advance), none even comes close to being the real thing. The good news is that this place is as close as I think you’re going to get to real Sichuan hotpot in the US.

    They have a special hotpot menu, which, though only in Chinese when it comes to ordering which type of base you want (it’s on the front of the menu; they have a variety of choices–classic all spicy, classic half spicy half non-spicy, and then they have a mushroom broth one, one with fish head, and one or two others), has in both English and Chinese a list of all the things to order to go into the hotpot. That list is very good–has all the classic ingredients (though some are a little different from what you’d get in Sichuan, e.g., the doufu pi) and is maybe about 1/2 the number of ingredients you’d have on offer at an average hotpot restaurant in Chengdu, so it’s really pretty good. The prices are very reasonable, and, even better, it’s open until midnight every day (again, a very good sign of authenticity, as hotpot restaurants in Chengdu are packed until very late at night). We had the classic all spicy base ($6 for the table; it’s the cheapest option)–for our taste, it could have been a bit more oily-lardy and could have had more seasonings in it, especially chilis and Sichuan peppercorns, but it was still very, very good (and hotpot restaurants in Chengdu have been moving away from the lard as well for health reasons in the last few years; also, outside of Sichuan itself, hotpot restaurants in China tend to go lighter on the peppercorns because they know non-Sichuanese aren’t as used to it). Also extremely positive is that they have a dipping sauce station (the dipping sauce, which is essential, is another $1 per person, again, it’s only in Chinese on the front of the hotpot menu where the bases are listed) that is self-serve, something you don’t get even in China. You can do the classic version (which I did last night)–sesame oil, soy sauce, black vinegar, garlic, salt, msg (yes, a pinch can’t hurt), scallions, and cilantro–but they have a lot more there as well if you want (though, for my mind, stuff like oyster sauce and hoisin sauce is an abomination with hotpot).

    The regular menu of the restaurant combines the usual Chinese-American standards with maybe about half to 2/3 of HK Palace’s Sichuan dishes (though no specials on the wall that I noticed). We didn’t order from that–hotpot is definitely the way to go in the evening, and that’s what every table was getting–the place was basically full around 8 but had mostly emptied out by 9. What we’re also excited about, however, is that they offer a daily lunch buffet from 11-3 and, judging from the labels on the buffet setup, they include in the buffet (at least on the weekends–maybe they pare it down during the week) a lot of their very good Sichuan cold dishes and a good selection of main dishes (though less heavy on the Sichuan stuff). The buffet includes pho and bubble tea. We’re now conflicted–do we try the buffet for our next trip or stick to the hotpot? Probably the latter, especially as we’re definitely going to try the mushroom base.

Having eaten there, I can vouch for this report and also for the Chinese menu, which you must ask for explicitly. This place is a knockout.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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