I was bitterly disappointed with the quality of the hotpot at HOPO; the broth tasted…um, actually it didn’t…it didn’t have any taste. And the condiments…well, let’s just say they left much to be desired. And that’s a pity because HOPO is otherwise a very well executed restaurant. Located in the Manila Centre not far from the Iranian Hospital in Satwa, HOPO ticks all the trendy, modernist interior design boxes, from its wooden dining benches and wall scribblings to its ceiling-hanging, vintage-style exposed light bulbs which are the craze with restaurant interior designers nowadays. Did I mention that HOPO is very popular with Filipinos? Very.
Although à la carte and various combo options are available, the main attraction at HOPO is what they call their hotpot buffet which at AED49 per person SEEMS like quite a steal. Why? Because for this price you get to serve yourself from two salad stations, a sauce station, a condiments station which includes (small, shelled) shrimps, a decent pre-cooked food station, fruits and desserts, and a protein of choice – chicken, lamb or beef. Oh, and of course there’s that tasteless broth to cook everything in. It’s a lot when you think about it. But put the pre-cooked section aside and what you’re left to build your hotpot with isn’t all that substantial. I wasn’t impressed anyway. This is no Little Lamb.
Service includes a big smile when you arrive and another when you leave. A sweet waitress will take you through the hotpot basics and may also offer to make your sauce but once that’s done, you’re pretty much left on your own. No one came to our table other than to deliver our single protein – chicken. Yet for all my grumblings, at 15:00 in the afternoon many tables were occupied. I can only assume the place is packed at lunch and dinner. There’s obviously something there which I’ve missed. But take my word for it, this is no Hot Palayok. So, if it’s good hotpot you’re after I would consider other options.
Waste NOT. Want NOT.